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17 million babies around the world breathe toxic air, warns the UN



Worldwide, almost 17 million babies under 1 live in areas where air pollution is at least six times higher than international limits, which makes them breathe dangerously toxic air, according to a new UNICEF report. This can have devastating health effects, including potentially putting your brain's development at risk.

"Contaminants not only damage the developing lungs of babies, but can also damage their developing brains." Lake said in a statement. "Protecting children from air pollution not only benefits children, it also benefits their societies, thanks to reduced medical care costs, increased productivity and a safer and cleaner environment for all" .

The brains of developing children are especially vulnerable because they can be harmed by smaller doses of toxic chemicals compared to the brains of adults, the report says. Babies are also more susceptible to the effects of air pollution because they breathe more quickly and their immune defenses are not fully developed.

Damage to early brain development can cause lifelong mishaps.

Most babies who breathe toxic air The report describes how certain toxic contamination particles damage the brains of growing babies.

Ultrafine toxic particles can enter the body through the bloodstream.

and travel to the brain, damaging its barrier and causing neuroinflammation. Some particles, such as ultrafine magnetite, can also enter through the olfactory and bowel nerves and can alter the way the body metabolizes oxygen, which has been linked to neurodegenerative diseases.

Other types of contaminating particles, such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, can damage parts of the brain that are responsible for helping neurons communicate, the basis for learning and developing babies.

The report urges to take measures to reduce the impact of air pollution on growing baby brains . These include:

  • Reduce air pollution by investing in cleaner, renewable energy sources to replace the combustion of fossil fuels.
  • Provide affordable access to public transport and increase green spaces in urban areas.
  • Provide better waste management options to prevent open burning of harmful chemicals.
  • Create intelligent urban planning so that the main sources of pollution are not close to schools, clinics or hospitals.
  • Improve the general health of children to improve their ability to recover, including the prevention and treatment of pneumonia. as well as the promotion of breastfeeding and good nutrition.

For their part, parents can reduce the exposure of children in the home to harmful fumes produced by tobacco products cook stoves and heat fires.

Finally, the document says that it is important to increase public awareness of the harmful effects of air pollution.

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

© 2017 CBS Interactive Inc. All rights reserved.


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