At least 17 million babies around the world reside in areas where outdoor air pollution levels are 6 times higher than recommended limits, possibly harming brain and lung development, UNICEF has revealed.
The majority of these 17 million babies (~12 million) live in South Asia, where air pollution levels are continuing to grow rapidly, according to the new study. The study used satellite images to investigate which regions were worst affected by air pollution — in terms of air pollution’s affect on children under one year of age.
“Not only do pollutants harm babies’ developing lungs — they can permanently damage their developing brains — and, thus, their futures,” commented UNICEF executive director Anthony Lake.
Stating the obvious yet ignored, he added: “Protecting children from air pollution not only benefits children. It is also benefits their societies – realized in reduced health care costs, increased productivity and a safer, cleaner environment for everyone.”
Such a point sounds obvious at first, but going on what one sees when looking around at government inaction on pollution problems to date, perhaps it isn’t for many people.
One does have to wonder — when you take a step back and look around — how much of modern “stupidity” isn’t the result of “ignorance” (as many people claim), but rather actual brain damage as caused by chemicals and particulate pollution (whether dementia, Alzheimer’s, developmental disorders, etc).
Though, perhaps some of it is the education system itself. Most of what passes for education nowadays is arguably of more detriment than value — presuming that the function of the education system isn’t simply to funnel appropriately compliant individuals into positions of authority and power, as it very possibly is. (Note: this doesn’t imply conspiracy, just normal primate social dynamics.)
Here’s more from the UNICEF press release about the new report:
The paper shows that air pollution, like inadequate nutrition and stimulation, and exposure to violence during the critical first 1,000 days of life, can impact children’s early childhood development by affecting their growing brains:
• Ultrafine pollution particles are so small that they can enter the blood stream, travel to the brain, and damage the blood-brain barrier, which can cause neuro-inflammation.
• Some pollution particles, such as ultrafine magnetite, can enter the body through the olfactory nerve and the gut, and, due to their magnetic charge, create oxidative stress – which is known to cause neurodegenerative diseases.
• Other types of pollution particles, such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, can damage areas in the brain that are critical in helping neurons communicate, the foundation for children’s learning and development.
• A young child’s brain is especially vulnerable because it can be damaged by a smaller dosage of toxic chemicals, compared to an adult’s brain. Children are also highly vulnerable to air pollution because they breathe more rapidly and also because their physical defences and immunities are not fully developed.
The paper outlines urgent steps to reduce the impact of air pollution on babies’ growing brains, including immediate steps parents can take to reduce children’s exposure in the home to harmful fumes produced by tobacco products, cook stoves and heating fires:
• Reduce air pollution by investing in cleaner, renewable sources of energy to replace fossil fuel combustion; provide affordable access to public transport; increase green spaces in urban areas; and provide better waste management options to prevent open burning of harmful chemicals.
• Reduce children’s exposure to pollutants by making it feasible for children to travel during times of the day when air pollution is lower; provide appropriately fitting air filtration masks in extreme cases; and create smart urban planning so that major sources of pollution are not located near schools, clinics or hospitals.
• Improve children’s overall health to improve their resilience. This includes the prevention and treatment of pneumonia, as well as the promotion of exclusive breastfeeding and good nutrition.
• Improve knowledge and monitoring of air pollution. Reducing children’s exposure to pollutants and the sources of air pollution begins with understanding the quality of air they are breathing in the first place.
“No child should have to breathe dangerously polluted air – and no society can afford to ignore air pollution,” said Lake.
For additional information, read the paper here.