Babies' brains damaged by pollution, Unicef says

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As New Delhi and other major cities hit new toxic smog peaks, the United Nations sounded the alarm on Wednesday over the damage that pollution is doing to babies' developing brains.

Satellite imagery reveals that South Asia has the largest proportion of babies under the age of one living in the worst-affected areas, with 12.2 million babies residing where outdoor air pollution exceeds six times global limits set by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The crisis saw large swathes of north India and parts of neighbouring Pakistan blanketed in acrid air - an annual phenomenon as cooler air traps particles near the ground, cause pollution levels to spike.

Air pollution for long has been known to cause several ailments related to breathing and general health and according to the United Nations Children's Fund report titled "Danger In the Air" air pollution can also permanently damage a child's brain.

The UN children's agency says 17 million babies are being exposed to excessive levels of pollution, putting their brain development at risk.

Satellite imagery analysed by UNICEF indicates that 12.2 million of these children live in South Asia.

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The links of pollution with asthma, bronchitis and other respiratory diseases in the long course are known for a long time.

The pollution " will impact the learning of the children, their memories, their language skills and motor", said to AFP Nicholas Rees, author of the report. "As yet, we know the minimum - but not the maximum - extent of the harm".

UNICEF warns that as more countries grow into modern, urban societies, governments have failed to provide "adequate protection and pollution reduction measures" to protect young children.

The report mentions that toxic air can also lead to anxiety disorder and may affect IQ level and memory pattern in kids.

The paper outlines urgent steps to reduce the impact of air pollution on babies' growing brains, including immediate actions for parents to decrease children's exposure at home to harmful fumes produced by tobacco products, cook stoves and heating fires. "A mask that does not fit the face well won't work".

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