A recent study by the University of Surrey made waves in the press this week – after advising that parents need to protect their buggy-bound babies from pollution using pram covers.
The research looked at the ‘high levels of pollution exposure’ babies in prams faced during school run hours (in the morning and afternoon).
But some of the general recommendations it made to parents were a bit vague, and even potentially harmful.
So we thought we’d try to clear the air on this one…
What the study found
The study, which was published by the journal Environmental Pollution, was carried out by placing a hi-tech air monitoring kit inside a pram.
The researchers then simulated the ‘average primary school drop off/pick up’ schedule, passing through numerous crossings and public transport stops.
This method found that the exposure was ‘more harmful’ in the morning than in the afternoon – and also noted that areas like traffic lights (where lots of cars release exhaust fumes) and bus stops (which see a lot of traffic, too) were the worst places for little ones to be ‘exposed’.
Lead researcher Dr Prashnat Kumar recommended:
“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 could use pram covers if at all possible.
“We are also working closely with our industrial partners to develop innovative methods to clean the air around the children in their in-pram microenvironments.”
What that means for YOU
Some of this does sound a bit 😱😱😱 but it’s nothing to panic about just yet.
Though these findings are certainly worth taking note of – and we definitely want to see more research on this topic.
For us, the key thing was to dig deeper into the general recommendation of using a ‘pram cover’ – because as we know, covers such as blankets and muslins can actually put your baby in danger of overheating.
As it happens, Dr Kumar clarified to us that he was referring to a buggy’s rain cover, that you KNOW is breathable – NOT just any general cover.
“You are right [about the risk of blankets and muslins] and therefore [I meant] anything which has openings to breathe and are able to create a barrier between fresh exhaust emissions and the in-pram babies,” he told us.
He also noted that the experiment was carried out during winter – and that this same advice may not apply to a warmer temperature.
“It will be interesting to simulate experiments during summers when the dispersion conditions are much better than during the winters, meaning that the pollutants will mix rapidly.”
Rain covers in the summer, for example, might not be plausible and could be very impractical for little ones, who don’t tend to like them when it’s rainy let alone when it’s not – plus, they can really stifle chat and communication between you and your little one.
And while it all sounds a bit doom and gloom, research like this is being done for a reason – so that in the future, the buggies themselves can help protect babies from pollution.
“We are trying to find a way by which the in-pram microenvironment is protective enough of fresh emissions,” Dr Kumar said of his future goals.
“The air around the babies remains cleaner and there is no need for measures such as covering the prams.”
Fingers crossed they’ll get there soon 👊