Expert says parents should use pram covers to avoid harmful air pollution
Babies in prams accompanying older siblings on the school run are twice as likely to be exposed to harmful air pollution in the morning than in the afternoon, a new study has found.
The new research, published this week in the journal Environmental Pollution, highlights the high levels exposure of babies in prams to air pollution during the morning drop-in hours of school children compared with the afternoon drop-off hours.
The study, carried out by researchers from the University of Surrey, also revealed that the worst places for infants to be exposed is at bus stops and traffic lights while their caregivers are waiting to cross roads.
A recent WHO report states that 570,000 children under the age of five die every year from respiratory infections, such as pneumonia, attributed to indoor and outdoor air pollution, and second-hand smoke.
The researchers carried out a series of experiments using high-spec air monitoring equipment placed inside a pram to gauge the kind of pollutants and toxic chemicals little ones are exposed to when accompanying older siblings during the school drop off and peak pick-up times.
During the tests, the monitoring equipment simulated the average primary school drop off and pick up, passing through a number of busy traffic intersections and bus stops during the morning and afternoon hours.
Primarily, the work of the research group identified that traffic intersections and bus stops emerged as pollution hotspots, with high levels of both coarse and fine particles.
The researchers also found that small-sized pollution particles, were higher on an average by about 47% during the morning than afternoon hours, reflecting the influence of traffic emissions during the peak drop-off hours.
Coarse pollution particles showed an opposite trend with 70% higher concentration during afternoon than in the morning, with researchers stating that the wet pavements and road (due to overnight and morning dew) is a factor in this phenomenon.
Dr Prashant Kumar, an expert in urban air pollution and the study's lead author, says that research shows young children are far more susceptible to pollution than adults, due to their immature and developing systems and lower body weight.
"These findings provide an insight for families who walk to and from nursery and primary schools with young children. Essentially, children could be at risk of breathing in some nasty and harmful chemical species such as iron, aluminium and silica that form together the particles of various size ranges.
One of the simplest ways to combat this is to use a barrier between the in-pram children and the exhaust emissions, especially at pollution hotspots such as traffic intersections, so parents should use pram covers if at all possible."
Dr Kumar says that scientists are working to resolve the problem,
"We are working closely with our industrial partners to develop innovative methods to clean the air around the children in their in-pram micro-environments."
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