(CNN) Practically 17 million infants global are breathing toxic air flow, potentially affecting their brain development, according to a UNICEF record published Wednesday.
Two-thirds of the damaged infants — above 12 million — live in South Asia and are exposed to pollution six times higher than recommended limits.
Particulates in pollution can damage brain cells and impair cognitive development, the report says, with potential lifelong effects.
Air pollution is among the most important threats to child overall health globally. Pneumonia claims 920,000 children beneath the age of 5 every year, and the chance is greatest for those under the era of 1 1.
Damaging infant brains
The brain undergoes critical growth in the first 1,000 days of life, forming foundational neural connections in this stage. Exposure to air flow pollution during this time can therefore impact development, the report states.
During development, small brains are especially susceptible to even small doses of toxic chemicals. This is manufactured worse by an increased breathing rate in kids, which in turn causes them to inhale even more toxic air, based on the report.
“The brains of infants and young children happen to be constructed by a complex interplay of rapid neural connections that commence before birth,” stated Pia Rebello Britto, the UNICEF chief of early on childhood development. “These neural connections condition a child’s optimal pondering, learning, health, memory, linguistic and motor expertise.”
Negative environments, such as exposure to toxic air, try to make children more susceptible to developmental problems, preventing their brains from growing fully, she explained.
Research has displayed that polluting of the environment can stunt growth, influence IQ and memory, and cause psychological concerns such as anxiety, depression and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, which can continue to affect test ratings in school.
South Asia at greatest risk
The UNICEF study used satellite imagery to recognize a child population of 12 million in South Asia at greatest risk from pollution, exceeding polluting of the environment limits set by the World Health Organization by sixfold
“With one in eight infants breathing incredibly polluted air flow, urgent steps to reduce air pollution must be taken right now,” stated Nicholas Rees, a UNICEF policy professional and author of the study.
“We will not be able to end kid deaths — and offer children with a fair start in life — without addressing environmentally friendly risks that they deal with,” he said.
“The numbers are extremely concerning for general public health,” said Rachel B. Smith, a study associate in the School of Public Wellness at Imperial University London who was simply not involved in the UNICEF report.
Smith authored a paper published Tuesday that analyzed the health of half a million infants in London between 2006 and 2010. It found that pregnant women exposed to air flow pollution were much more likely to provide birth to underweight infants.
“The degrees of pollution in Asia happen to be much higher than in London,” she stated. “We see results in London that happen to be below the legal limit, so that it is concerning when you recognize how many children face that” in South Asia.
Urgent action needed, authorities say
The report also mentions the adverse effects of smoking tobacco, whether or not the fetus is exposed to secondhand smoke in the womb.
“The polluting brokers in burning up tobacco, despite being different from the ones within fossil fuels, have overlaps,” Rees said, calling for bold, decisive action. “We are in need of cleaner, renewable resources of energy to avoid the pollution caused by fossil fuel combustion.”
Rees believes that good urban preparation — including affordable usage of public transportation, parks and green places for kids, and better waste operations to avoid open-air burning — will help bring pollution levels down. “We also need to make sure children get access to medical services they need to treat health circumstances connected with air pollution.”
The paper outlined steps for parents to take in the home, focusing on monitoring children’s respiratory health insurance and reducing their exposure to fumes produced by cooking or heating fires or smoking tobacco.
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“We have long known that violence, extreme neglect and insufficient nutritious food on the earliest years of life can inhibit children’s brain development. But the fact that we now know that children’s cognitive function could be impaired by just the air flow they breathe — and the fact that so many young children are damaged — is of extreme concern,” stated Justin Forsyth, deputy executive director of UNICEF.
He explained that whenever a child’s cognitive development is impaired, it influences not only individual lives but whole families, communities and economies.
“The multitude of babies living in highly polluted areas of our world, combined with the emerging evidence presented in this fresh paper, provides an urgent wake-up call to take action against pollutants.”