Millions of babies are breathing in toxic air, UNICEF report says

According to the study's estimations, almost 17 million babies worldwide are subjected to toxic air among which 12 million live in South Asia in areas that have toxic air six times higher than the safe global limits of 20 micrograms per cubic meter for PM10 and 10 micrograms per cubic meter for PM2.5.

Babies in South Asia were worst affected, with more than 12 million living in areas with pollution six times higher than safe levels. Also the report claimed that in East Asia and the Pacific, there are approximately four point three million babies who are breathing toxic air.

"Not only do pollutants harm babies' developing lungs - they can permanently damage their developing brains - and, thus, their futures", UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake said in a press release.

Research has shown that air pollution can stunt growth, impact IQ and memory, and cause psychological issues such as anxiety, depression and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, which can go on to affect test scores in school.

Finally, as reducing children's exposure begins with understanding the quality of air they are breathing, the report endorses improved knowledge and monitoring of air pollution.

"We will not be able to end child deaths - and provide children with a fair start in life - without addressing the environmental risks that they face", he said.

For detailed information, read the full report compiled by UNICEF. It found that pregnant women exposed to air pollution were more likely to give birth to underweight babies.

"As more and more of the world urbanises, and without adequate protection and pollution reduction measures, more children will be at risk in the years to come".

With damage to brain tissue, the cognitive development of children is affected.

"No child should have to breathe dangerously polluted air - and no society can afford to ignore air pollution", Lake concluded. "Parents must protect children from outdoor pollution and from tobacco smoke, cooking fumes and heating fires at home".

· 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.

UNICEF has suggested that immediate action must be taken to reduce air pollution amid emerging evidence.