LINKING INFANT LOCOMOTION DYNAMICS WITH FLOOR DUST RESUSPENSION AND EXPOSURE
Infant exposure to the microbial and allergenic content of indoor floor dust has been shown to play a significant role in both the development of, and protection against, allergies and asthma later in life. Resuspension of floor dust during infant locomotion induces a vertical transport of particles to the breathing zone, leading to inhalation exposure to a concentrated cloud of coarse (> 1μm) and fine (≤ 1μm) particles. Resuspension, and subsequent exposure, during periods of active infant locomotion is likely influenced by gait parameters. This dependence has been little explored to date and may play a significant role in floor dust resuspension and exposure associated with forms of locomotion specific to infants. This study explores associations between infant locomotion dynamics and floor dust resuspension and exposure in the indoor environment. Infant gait parameters for walking and physiological characteristics expected to influence dust resuspension and exposure were identified, including: contact frequency (steps min-1), contact area per step (m2), locomotion speed (m s-1), breathing zone height (cm), and time-resolved locomotion profiles. Gait parameter datasets for standard gait experiments were collected for infants in three age groups: 12, 15, and 19 months-old (m/o). The gait parameters were integrated with an indoor dust resuspension model through a Monte Carlo framework to predict how age-dependent variations in locomotion affect the resuspension mass emission rate (mg h-1) for five particle size fractions from 0.3 to 10 μm. Eddy diffusivity coefficients (m2 s-1) were estimated for each age group and used in a particle transport model to determine the vertical particle concentration profile above the floor.
Probability density functions of contact frequency, contact area, locomotion speed, breathing zone height, and size-resolved resuspension mass emission rates were determined for infants in each group. Infant standard gait contact frequencies were generally in the range of 100 to 300 steps min-1 and increased with age, with median values of 186 steps min-1 for 12 m/o, 207 steps min-1 for 15 m/o, and 246.2 steps min-1 for 19 m/o infants. Similarly, locomotion speed increased with age, from 67.3 cm s-1 at 12 m/o to 118.83 cm s-1 at 19 m/o, as did the breathing zone height, which varied between 60 and 85 cm. Resuspension mass emission rates increased with both infant age and particle size. A 19 m/o infant will resuspend comparably more particles from the same indoor settled dust deposit compared to a 15 m/o or 12 m/o infant. Age-dependent variations in the resuspension mass emission rate and eddy diffusivity coefficient drove changes in the vertical particle concentration profile within the resuspended particle cloud. For all particle size fractions, there is an average of a 6% increase in the resuspended particle concentration at a height of 1 m from the floor for a 19 m/o compared to a 12 m/o infant. Time-resolved locomotion profiles were obtained for infants in natural gait during free play establish the transient nature of walking-induced particle resuspension and associated exposures for infants, with variable periods of active locomotion, no motion, and impulsive falls. This study demonstrates that floor dust resuspension and exposure can be influenced by the nature of infant locomotion patterns, which vary with age and are distinctly different from those for adults.