Babies have been described as “human vacuum cleaners” after a new study revealed that they breath in four times as much dirt and bacteria from the floor as adults walking across the same area.
Research carried out by Purdue University, USA, is the first to measure how much debris is actually kicked up by babies’ unique methods of movement and bursts of activity.
“Infants’ bodies are not good at blocking this dust storm,” Researcher Brandon Boor told The Courier Mail. “For an adult a significant portion of the biological particles are removed in the upper respiratory system in the nostrils and throat. But very young children breathe through their mouths and a significant fraction is deposited in the lower airways.
“The particles make it to the deepest regions of their lungs.”
Parents needn’t panic though as previous studies have proven that time spent rolling, sliding or crawling on the floor can actually help to protect children against allergies and prevent the development of breathing problems, such as asthma.
As babies roll, slide and crawl on the floor, their movements stir up more particulates into the air, and their mouths and nostrils are much closer to the floor where the concentrations are greater. This is countered somewhat by the fact that babies tend to move in much shorter bursts of activity than do older children or adults.
The study also found that carpets were the worst offending surfaces, with dirt, bacteria, skin cells, pollen and fungal spores all found in the dust clouds.
“We used state-of-the-art aerosol instrumentation to track the biological particles floating in the air around the infant in real-time, second by second. The instrument uses lasers to cause biological material to fluoresce. Most bacterial cells, fungal spores, and pollen particles are fluorescent, so they can be reliably distinguished from non-biological material in the air,” Boor said.
“Exposure to certain bacterial and fungal species can result in the development of asthma, but numerous studies have shown that when an infant is exposed to a very high diversity of microbes, at a high concentration, they can have a lower rate of asthma later in life. Such exposures act to stimulate and challenge your immune system.”