Traffic exposure, air pollution and children's physical activity at early childhood education and care

Hayley Christian, Leanne Lester, Stewart G. Trost, Jasper Schipperijn, Gavin Pereira, Peter Franklin, Amanda J. Wheeler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: A significant number of children attend Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC). ECEC is an important environment and behaviour setting for young children. Time spent outdoors is positively associated with children's physical activity levels, yet increased time spent physically active outdoors may expose young children to traffic-related air pollution, particularly in ECEC centres located in high traffic areas. Methods: This study was part of the Play Spaces and Environments for Children's Physical Activity (PLAYCE) study, Perth, Western Australia. Data from 22 ECEC centres and 478 children were collected. Continuous measures of indoor and outdoor fine particulate matter (PM2.5) were conducted for 48–72 h in each ECEC. Children wore ActiGraph GT3X + accelerometers to measure their physical activity at ECEC. The total length of high traffic roads within a 300m road network service area buffer around each ECEC was used to identify high and low traffic centres. Results: Outdoor PM2.5 concentrations peaked in the afternoon (1pm, 2pm and 6pm) at ECEC centres. Outdoor and indoor PM2.5 concentrations were significantly higher for centres located in high compared with low traffic areas (both p < 0.05). There was no significant association between a centre being located in a high or low traffic area and the time preschoolers spent outdoors or their physical activity levels. Discussion: Time periods when air pollution concentrations in ECECs are highest correspond with times when preschoolers are likely to be physically active outdoors. Children's potential exposure to traffic-related air pollutants is occurring during a period of rapid lung development. Given there is no evidence of a safe level of exposure to PM2.5 or a threshold below which no adverse health effects occur, careful planning should be a consideration to avoid locating ECEC centres in high traffic areas.

Original languageEnglish
Article number113885
JournalInternational Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2022


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