Health Care

17 million babies breathing toxic air worldwide

17 million babies breathing toxic air worldwide”

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. It says that in 2012, outdoor air pollution in cities and rural areas was caused an estimated 3 million premature deaths globally.

The report comes at a time when north India, particularly Delhi and adjoining areas, battle high pollution levels with air quality swaying from "very poor" to "emergency" levels, restricting physical activity and forcing closure of schools.

The Unicef report also said that South Asia had the largest proportion of babies living in areas where air pollution is at least six times higher than global limits (10 micrograms per cubic metre).

The UNICEF report notes that breathing in particulate air pollution can damage brain tissue and undermine cognitive development - which can set children back and have a lasting effect on their progress in life.

Brain development in the first 1,000 days of a child's life is critical for their learning, growth and for them "being able to do everything that they want and aspire to in life", he said.

Thus, it is not only the lungs which are most prone to the dangers of toxins and harmful pollutants the child's brain is equally affected.

Air pollution has already been linked to asthma, bronchitis, and other long-term respiratory diseases.

The air pollution level has been consistently 10 points above the safe zone.

"Protecting children from air pollution is in the best interests of the Indian society - a benefit realised in reduced health costs", Westerbeek said. "As yet, we know the minimum - but not the maximum - extent of the harm".

The World Health Organization describes air pollution as a "major environmental risk to health".

Satellite imagery used to compile the data also revealed that the issue was growing in African cities, Unicef said.

"As more and more of the world urbanises, and without adequate protection and pollution reduction measures, more children will be at risk in the years to come".

Seventeen million babies worldwide live in areas where air pollution runs six times the recommended limit, UNICEF reports. "A mask that does not fit the face well won't work".



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