Childcare centers

In a paper published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health; University of Melbourne researchers have analysed childcare locations and road vehicle density in inner-city Melbourne. Urban childcare centers must be built away from busy urban roads to minimize kids’ exposure to traffic pollution, experts warn.

However, the paper highlights increasing evidence that exposure to traffic-related air pollution; is a significant contributor to the prevalence of asthma and allergies; Australia’s most common cause of children’s GP visits. It is possible to give traffic pollution a smell and this has demonstrated by some alternative fuels, such as chip fat.

Effects of traffic pollution

Public that was more aware of the health effects of traffic pollution; may be in favour of policy changes such as the development of pedestrian city centres; and make them more wary of the planned locations of new roads. “If children, parents and schools are made aware of the problem of traffic pollution via a smell; many parents would turn off their engines.”

“Turning off idling engines would also be beneficial in school pick-up zones; where lines of children, whose lungs are particularly vulnerable to traffic pollution, stand next to idling engines. Of the 278 identified inner-suburban childcare centres, 10.4 % (29) were within 60 metres of a major road; defined by the researchers as having a daily load of 20 000 vehicles a day or more.

But researchers have detailed one extreme example where a new childcare center; is under development less than 10 meters from an intersection used by a daily average of 4650 trucks. Researchers are calling for Victorian policy makers to emulate California, where efforts to reduce children’s exposure to pollution; has link to measurable health improvements.

Childcare centers

The researchers recommend that policy makers need to adopt; a series of strategies including: Appropriate “buffer zones” between busy roads and childcare centers. Indoor ventilation and filtration. Vehicle anti-idling and idle reduction policies. Roadside barriers. Designing outdoor play-areas away from traffic-related air pollution flow movements.

Play-time structured to avoid peak traffic hours. Encouragement of active transportation, such as walking and bike riding. University of Melbourne Honorary Research Fellow Clare Walter said children’s health would likely benefit from greater consideration given to reducing traffic-related air pollution exposure during the planning process of childcare centres.

“Our National Environmental Protection Measures legislation is underpinned by the objective that “all Australians enjoy the benefits of equivalent protection from air pollution,”” Ms Walter said. But until we take care of children from exposure to traffic  and pollution, we will fail to keep kids healthier.