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Babies on bikes are exposed to high air pollution

Babies in bike trailers are exposed to higher levels of air pollution than their parents, a new study shows. 

In research published in the Journal of Hazardous Materials Advances, Surrey’s Global Centre for Clean Air Research (GCARE) found that the average concentration of air pollution in a bike trailer is 14% higher than at cyclist height.

The researchers found that young children were exposed to even higher concentrations of air pollution during peak morning periods at urban pollution hotspots, such as traffic lights.

Professor Prashant Kumar, Founding Director of GCARE at the University of Surrey, said: ‘It’s unfortunate that the very people who help minimise pollution by cycling rather than driving can be exposing their children to higher levels of pollution, and I’d encourage adults pulling bike trailers to use covers in heavy traffic.

‘With the use of electric-assisted cargo bikes growing rapidly in Europe, it’s crucial traffic planners ensure road infrastructure is designed to enable safe use of sustainable transport options.’

girl riding trike

In their peer-reviewed study, the researchers detailed how they simulated the exposure profiles of an adult cyclist and young children sitting in a bike trailer attached to it for multiple air pollutants during the school runs in the morning and afternoon hours.

Taking measurements on over 80 runs covering 176km, the researchers assessed the differences in exposure concentrations on the bike compared within the trailer.

The researchers compared pollution in bike trailers with and without covers, finding that concerned parents and carers can reduce their children’s exposure to pollutants by using a trailer cover. Covers halved the levels of fine particles in trailers during peak morning hours.

In future, the researchers hope to secure funding to continue their research so they can build an exposure profile database in a variety of bike trailers under diverse traffic and built environmental conditions.

 

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