Babies in Prams May Be Exposed to Twice as Much Pollution as the Adults Pushing Them
Most parents, when searching for the best baby prams, are worried about safety. Once that’s been established, and the pram purchased, we’re just glad to be able to rest our arms while we’re on the go. But a new study suggests how and where we use baby prams might be important to consider: Outdoors, the researchers found, children in prams may be exposed to 60% more air pollution than the adults pushing them.
The study, published in Environment International, examined 150 references to analyze the levels of air pollution, including PM2.5, to which babies in prams are exposed. The researchers further analyzed if and how the dimensions of the pram and number of seats affects pollution exposure. They found that prams for infants may put children most at risk of air pollution and its effects. These prams tend to place children closest to the height at which vehicle exhaust is expelled.
“The air within the first few meters above the road level is usually most polluted,” the authors write. Most infants in prams are positioned 0.55 to 0.85 meters above ground level; most exhaust pipes sit at roughly 1 meter above ground.
Air pollution and its effects include potential damage to children’s frontal lobe and impaired brain development and cognitive ability. However, the study did not examine how frequent or prolonged pram travel would need to be to have such effects.
“We know that infants breathe in higher amounts of airborne particles relative to their lung size and body weight compared to adults. What we have proven here is that the height most children travel at while in a pram doubles the likelihood of negative impacts from air pollution when compared to an adult,” says study author Prashant Kumar, the founding director of the Global Centre for Clean Air Research at the University of Surrey, UK. “When you also consider how vulnerable they are because of their tissues, immune systems, and brain development at this early stage of their life, it is extremely worrying that they are being exposed to these dangerous levels of pollution.”
According to UNICEF, 17 million babies under age 1 worldwide breathe in polluted, toxic air, many of whom live in India, home to 14 of the world’s 20 most-polluted cities. While air pollution and its effects has prompted some families to leave metros behind, for those who can’t make such a big leap, considering when and where to take the pram out might be one way to mitigate air pollution and its effects on kids.