In Depth

Babies in prams ‘exposed to 60% more pollution than adults’

Study finds that because pollution levels are greater within 1m of ground level, infants are exposed to more of it than adults

Babies in buggies and prams could be exposed to up to 60 per cent more pollution than adults, which could negatively affect their cognitive abilities and brain development.

Researchers at the Global Centre for Clean Air Research, at the University of Surrey, carried out a review of existing scientific research and found that the breathing height of infants in prams was between 0.55m and 0.85m (2ft) above ground level.

The evidence indicates that because “pollution levels are greater within 1m of ground level, these infants are being exposed to up to 60% more fine particle air pollution than adults,” reports the BBC.

The study, which was published in the Environment International journal said that as roadside pollution contains high levels of toxic metals, this has the potential to impair brain development in infants.

Professor Prashant Kumar, one of the authors of the paper, said: “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.”

Kumar’s team suggest that a range of actions are needed to protect young children, including “‘active’ solutions such as controlling emissions of road vehicles, and ‘passive' actions such as placing roadside hedges between vehicles and pedestrians”, reports Canadian news site CTV.

Kumar added: “With the multitude of evidence we set out in this review, it is important that everyone across the country begins a full and frank conversation about pollution and the impact it has on our most vulnerable - from parents and community leaders, to government officials and industry.”

According to Unicef, 17 million children under the age of one across the world live in regions where air pollution levels exceed World Health Organisation-recommended guidelines.

Professor Jonathan Grigg, from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, who was not involved in the research, told the BBC the findings were a “major concern”.

“To help protect children's health we must promote alternatives to cars fuelled by petrol and diesel,” he added.

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