World

Babies’ brains at risk from toxic pollution: UN

NEW DELHI: The United Nations sounded the alarm yesterday over the damage pollution is doing to babies' developing brains.

The UN's children's agency, Unicef, said Asia accounts for more than 16 million of the world's 17 million infants under the age of one and living in areas with severe pollution.

India topped the list of countries with babies at risk, followed by China, Unicef said in a report.

The report highlighted links found between pollution and brain functions "including verbal and non-verbal IQ and memory, reduced test scores, grade point averages among school children, as well as other neurological behavioural problems".

The particles in city pollution can damage the blood-brain barrier - a delicate membrane that protects the brain from toxic substances. Damage to the membrane has been linked to Alzheimer's and Parkinson's in the elderly.

Unicef also highlighted the growing risk from minute particles of the iron ore magnetite, which is increasingly found in urban pollution.

The nanoparticles, which easily get into the blood stream, are highly dangerous to the brain because of their magnetic charge and have also been linked to degenerative diseases. - AFP

WORLD