Prams may expose babies and toddlers to more air pollution finds study

According to a new study, babies put in prams and taken outdoors are exposed to 60 per cent more air pollution compared to adults. The researchers explain that the air in the first one metre above the ground is more polluted than that above.

The researchers suggest that the air in the first metre above the ground is the one the babies are exposed to. This level of air contains most of the vehicle exhaust fumes. The prams are typically around 0.55m and 0.85m from the ground. This puts them in the centre of the pollutants.

The researchers from the University of Surrey have found that there are fine air borne particles weighing less than 0.0025mg that are released from vehicle exhaust pipes. These are dangerous when breathed in because they can get deposited in the lungs and can enter the blood circulation. In babies, these fumes can cause damage to the brain development and further cognitive development. The study was published in the latest issue of the journal Environment International journal.

Image Credit: Mariia Smeshkova / Shutterstock
Image Credit: Mariia Smeshkova / Shutterstock

The team looked at over 160 studies on air pollution. Professor Prashant Kumar, the founding director of the Global Centre for Clean Air Research at the university suggested that infants are breathing in more air pollutants relative to their lung sizes and body weights. He said that this study proves that the children are travelling at heights which double their risk of the negative impacts from the air pollutants. This is much higher compared to adults he said. He added that the babies have delicate and vulnerable “tissues, immune systems and brain development” and this level of exposure could be dangerous for them. He urged people to start talking about this and make policy decisions to protect those most vulnerable.

There have been previous studies that study the effects of air pollutants on pregnant mothers and their unborn babies. Prof Kumar explained that meanwhile parents can reduce the exposure of their babies to air pollutants by using pram covers and avoiding areas with high air pollution such as bus stops, busy roads etc.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), over 570,000 children below the age of five years die annually from infections of the respiratory tract including pneumonia because of their exposure to indoor and outdoor air pollutants and second hand smoke.

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