Air pollution may cause permanent damage to your child's brain

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.

"Not only do pollutants harm babies' developing lungs - they can permanently damage their developing brains - and, thus, their futures", UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake said in a press release.

The findings come at a time when India, particularly in the north, is facing a serious crisis due to rising levels of pollution.

The UN agency, in its report "Danger in the Air: How air pollution can affect brain development in young children", said Asia accounts for more than 16 million of the world's 17 million infants aged under one year living in areas with severe pollution - at least six times more than safe levels.

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"No child should have to breathe dangerously polluted air and no society can afford to ignore air pollution", said Lake.

The East Asia and Pacific region is home to some 4.3 million babies living in areas with pollution levels at least six times higher than worldwide limits. Air pollution has known links to asthma, pneumonia, bronchitis and other respiratory infections.

Pollutants inhaled by pregnant women may pass through the placenta and disturb the development of the brain of the foetus.

One study reports a four-point drop in IQ by the age of 5 among a sample of children exposed in utero to toxic air pollution, it said.

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Air pollution potentially affects children's brains through several mechanisms.

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

Reducing children's exposure in the areas of high air pollution is also very important.

The author of the "Danger In The Air" report, Nicholas Rees, told AFP that toxic pollution is "impacting children's learning, their memories, linguistic and motor skills".

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According to the American Lung Association's "State of the Air" report for 2017, almost 40 percent of the United States' population still live in counties that have unhealthful levels of air pollution.

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