DHAKA – At least 17 million babies worldwide live in areas where air pollution is at least six times higher than accepted healthy limits making them vulnerable to various diseases, a report by the United Nations Children’s Fund warned Wednesday.
According to the report, “Danger in the air,” released in Dhaka, more than three-quarters of babies under the age of one – some 12.2 million – who breathe toxic air that exceed six times the limits set by the World Health Organization, live in South Asia.
“Not only do pollutants harm babies’ developing lungs – they can permanently damage their developing brains – and, thus, their futures,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake.
In East Asia and the Pacific region some 4.3 million babies are exposed to the threat of pollution.
According to the UNICEF report, ultrafine pollution particles can enter the bloodstream and damage the blood-brain barrier causing neuroinflammation among these children.
Some particles can damage key areas for communication between neurons, while others have a magnetic charge that can lead to neurodegenerative diseases.
The report added that many of these children, especially those living in urban slums, are already at risk from various infectious diseases owing to inadequate living conditions, including lack of clean water and sanitation.
The report also urged countries to invest in renewable energy, improve access to public transport, and strengthen the health system to ensure children are immune to the ill effects of pollution.