UNICEF has published a report and according to their studies, children’s health around the world is at risk because of pollution. The brains of over 17 million children might be affected by pollution.
In South Asia more than 12 million children are exposed to very high levels of pollution – six times higher than the limit.
The brain will be damaged by particulates in pollution and the cognitive development will be impaired.
Every year 920,000 children under the age of 5 get pneumonia and those smaller than 1 year are at bigger risks because of air pollution.
The Brain Needs Time to Grow
A brain will grow in the first 1,000 days of a child, so exposure to air pollution will impact development, which critically grows in that time.
The UNICEF chief of early childhood development stated that ‘The brains of babies and young children are constructed by a complex interplay of rapid neural connections that begin before birth. These neural connections shape a child’s optimal thinking, learning, health, memory, linguistic and motor skills.’
Exposing children to toxic air will prevent the brains from a full development.
The same research shows that pollution also affects IQ, memory, can cause anxiety, depression, and ADHD.
South Asia is at Great Risk
Separate from the UNICEF study, Rachel B. Smith wrote a paper on the health of half a million children from London between 2006 – 2010 and found out that pregnant women are at an increased risk of delivering underweight babies.
Smith also stated that ‘the levels of pollution in Asia are much higher than in London. We see effects in London that are below the legal limit, so it is concerning when you realize how many children are exposed to that [in South Asia].’
The author of the UNICEF study, Nicholas Rees, said that to combat pollution ‘We need cleaner, renewable sources of energy to prevent the pollution caused by fossil fuel combustion. We also need to make sure children have access to the health services they need to treat health conditions associated with air pollution’.
It seems that cognitive functions of children are not impaired by violence, neglect or less nutritious food, but their brains’ development suffers because of the polluted air they breathe. Children with affected cognitive development will not only negatively impact their lives, but their families, communities and economies will also be affected.