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Air pollution can impair brain development in babies, warns UNICEF report




[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]A UNICEF report released on Wednesday, Dec 6 – a day after the first International Smog Day – says babies in South Asia face the danger of poor brain development due to air pollution.

The report comes at a time when north India, particularly Delhi and adjoining areas, battle high pollution levels with air quality swaying from ‘very poor’ to ‘emergency’ levels, restricting physical activity and forcing closure of schools.

The UN agency, in its report “Danger in the Air: How air pollution can affect brain development in young children”, said Asia accounts for more than 16 million of the world’s 17 million infants aged under one year living in areas with severe pollution — at least six times more than safe levels.

India topped the list of countries with babies at risk, followed by China.

Satellite imagery used to assess pollution levels around the world found that South Asian countries accounted for 12.2 million of the total number of affected children but that there is also a growing problem in African cities.

The report notes that breathing in particulate air pollution can damage brain tissue and undermine cognitive development – with lifelong implications and setbacks.

Air pollution has already been linked to asthma, bronchitis, and other long-term respiratory diseases.

“But a growing body of scientific research points to a potential new risk that air pollution poses to children’s lives and futures: its impact on their developing brains,” UNICEF said.

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

Air pollutants inhaled during pregnancy can affect the developing brain of a foetus, with potential lifelong effects, says the report.

One study reports a four-point drop in IQ by the age of 5 among a sample of children exposed in utero to toxic air pollution, it said.

The report said further research was needed to study the full impact of air pollution on children’s developing brains. “As yet, we know the minimum – but not the maximum – extent of the harm. The variety of types of pollutants that are in the air across different environments make it difficult to determine the full impact of air pollution. But this growing body of research does provide an indication of the scale of harm,” said the UNICEF.

“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.”

The author of the “Danger In The Air” report, Nicholas Rees, told AFP that toxic pollution is “impacting children’s learning, their memories, linguistic and motor skills.”

UNICEF urged more efforts to cut pollution, and also to reduce children’s exposure to the poisonous smog which has frequently reached hazardous levels in Indian cities in recent weeks.

It called for a greater use of masks, air filtration systems and for children to avoid travelling when pollution levels are at their highest.

Rees said masks help “but very importantly they have to have good filters and they also have to fit children’s faces well. A mask that does not fit the face well won’t work.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css=”.vc_custom_1512568093364{border-bottom-width: 20px !important;padding-top: 20px !important;padding-bottom: 20px !important;background-color: #a2b1bf !important;}”][vc_column][vc_column_text]Excerpt from the UNICEF press release:

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. Here are the main points of the report:

  • 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.


India News

Rajya Sabha passes Women’s Reservation Bill, all it now needs is President Murmu’s assent

The Rajya Sabha passed the Women’s Reservation Bill unanimously on Thursday. A voice vote was taken with Chairman of the House Jagdeep Dhankhar declaring the ayes have it. Then it was voted on with 215 in support and zero against.



The Rajya Sabha passed the Women’s Reservation Bill unanimously on Thursday. A voice vote was taken with Chairman of the House Jagdeep Dhankhar declaring the ayes have it. Then it was voted on with 215 in support and zero against.

Just before the vote, drawing the two-day discussions in both Houses to a close, Prime Minister Narendra Modi thanked the members and political parties for their constructive suggestions. He noted some 132 members spoke in both Houses of Parliament.

The synergy of the government and the Opposition over women’s reservation was a confidence-building measure, he said. This sends a new message to the people, he added. The Lok Sabha had cleared the Bill yesterday with 454 votes in favour and 2 against.

Earlier in the Rajya Sabha, Law Minister Arjun Ram Meghwal said with 33% reservation for women in the country, India will steal a march over developed nations which don’t have such measures.

Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge, the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, wondered why the reservation was being promised after Census and delimitation. He demanded that the House be told when the reservation will be in effect as to the date and month and year when it will come into force.

Kharge joked if like the Rs 15 lakh and the 2 crore job promise of the BJP ahead of elections, this would also be an election jumla as said by party leaders. He said almost every party supports you on the Bill but let our support not go waste in election propaganda of the BJP. Raising each and every point, Kharge kept repeating that he was supporting the Bill in a scene reminiscent of Mark Antony’s speech from the play Julius Caesar. Pushing for the OBC quota, he said even SC/ST officers don’t even make it to joint secretary level.

Kharge asked if you can come up with the sudden demonetisation of 2016, why didn’t you bring this Bill then? There was no Opposition to you in the first term in the Lok Sabha, he charged.

Congress MP KC Venugopal mocked the BJP for its pro-women stance by saying that its stalwarts Vajpayee, Advani and Jaswant Singh voted against women’s quota in 1989.  

Earlier, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the BJP has been consistently in support of women’s reservation. She said the BJP doesn’t like to bring politics in women-related matters.

BJP Rajya Sabha MP Sushil Kumar Modi slammed the UPA government for not supporting the Bill in the Lok Sabha. He said its allies did not want this Bill to be passed.

Samajwadi Party MP Jaya Bachchan noted that when a similar Bill was presented in the House in the presence of CPM leader Brinda Karat and late Sushma Swaraj but failed to pass. Bachchan said the SP is not against the Bill, her party has some concerns as echoed by other parties as well.

Before this, Trinamool Congress leader Derek O’Brien and Dhankhar had an altercation over time allotted to MPs to speak on the issue.

Independent MP Kapil Sibal demanded the resignation of Prime Minister Modi and Home Minister Shah if they do not complete the process of delimitation and implementation of the Women’s Reservation Bill by 2029.

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India News

Mumbai Police arrest two people who kidnapped, raped 14-year-old girl in moving taxi

Police have identified the two accused as Shiv Prakash Pandey and Salman Shaikh. Both of them are aged 25 years and 27 years respectively.



Mumbai Police arrest two people who kidnapped, raped 14-year-old girl in moving taxi

Mumbai Police have registered a case against two people who kidnapped and then raped a 14 year old girl in a taxi. According to the police the girl had a fight with her family members. She decided to go in Malvani in Malad to meet her relative. On seeing the girl alone a taxi driver asked to drop her off to Malwani. The girl agreed and started going to Malwani with him.

The accused taxi driver took the taxi to Dadar. The Taxi driver stopped and made the accused Salman Shaikh sit with him. The family came to know about the girl’s disappearance. The girl’s family members contacted the Malabar Hill police station. They informed the police about the kidnapping.

A case was registered by the police as the girl was underage. A technical investigation was started by the police and came to know the girl had gone to a relative’s place in Malad. A team of police officers was sent to Malad to bring back the girl. Situation became serious when the girl revealed what happened on her way to Malad.

A police officer added two men were present inside the taxi. One was the taxi driver and the other man raped the girl at the back seat of the car. Different teams were formed to carry out the investigation in the case. The CCTV footage of the area was also used. According to the police the incident took place between Malad and Dadar.

Police have identified the two accused as Shiv Prakash Pandey and Salman Shaikh. Both of them are aged 25 years and 27 years respectively. According to the police Salman Shaikh works in a hotel in Dadar. The victim gave a statement on the basis of which a case has been registered in related POCSO section and section 376 of IPC. The accused have been produced in court where the court sent them to police custody till September 25.

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India News

Punjab: CM Bhagwant Mann hands over Rs 1 crore cheques to Anantnag encounter martyrs families

Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann also assured all possible help and support to the families of the martyred soldiers.



Punjab: CM Bhagwant Mann hands over Rs 1 crore cheques to Anantnag encounter martyrs families

Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann on Thursday handed over cheques of Rs 1 crore each to the bereaved families of martyrs Colonel Manpreet Singh and martyr Pradeep Singh. They were among the soldiers who laid their lives in protecting the nation in Anantnag, Jammu and Kashmir.  

The anti-terror week-long operation in the Garol forests in the Anantnag district ended on Tuesday. The operation began when Colonel Manpreet Singh, commanding officer, 19 Rashtriya Rifles, Major Ashish Dhonchak and deputy superintendent of Jammu and Kashmir Police Humayun Bhat were killed by terrorists.

Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann also assured all possible help and support to the families of the martyred soldiers. He expressed that martyr Colonel Manpreet Singh and martyr Pradeep Singh will always live in their memories. 

Taking to X, formerly Twitter, the Chief Minister conveyed that he met the families of Colonel Manpreet Singh of Kharar Constituency and Shaheed Pradeep Singh of Samana Constituency. He added that the families were handed over cheques of Rs 1 crore from the government as an honorarium.

According to reports, Colonel Manpreet Singh, commanding officer of the Rashtriya Rifles (19 RR) and a recipient of the prestigious Sena Medal (Gallantry), spoke to his family, just hours before dying of gunshot wounds. He is survived by wife, 2-year-old daughter, 6-year-old son, mother and a brother. 

The body of martyred soldier Pradeep Singh was recovered on Monday, after he went missing on the first day of the encounter. Martyr Pradeep Singh was with the Sikh Light Infantry and was a part of 19 Rashtriya Rifles. Reportedly, the 27-year-old soldier served in the Indian Army for seven years. He hailed from Patiala in Punjab and is survived by his wife.

Addressing a function late on Sunday evening, Lt Governor Manoj Sinha expressed that every drop of blood of the slain security personnel will be avenged and the terrorist handlers will have to pay a heavy price. He added that they have complete faith in the soldiers and the entire nation stands in solidarity with them.

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