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Your Environment. Your Health.

Robert Wood Johnson Medical School

Validation of a Robotic Surrogate for Measurement of Early Childhood Personal Exposure

Stuart Lloyd Shalat
shalat@eohsi.rutgers.edu

 

Project Description

 

The study proposes to validate a robotic surrogate, the Pre-toddler Inhalable Particulate Environmental Robotic (PIPER) sampler, for collecting personal exposures of particulate matter (PM) in a study population which is too young to have personal exposure collected accurately by existing methodologies. Exposure and dose estimation are essential to understanding the etiology of environmentally linked childhood diseases. The behavior of re-suspended PM, however, suggests that stationary general area measurements taken in homes may underestimate these exposures in young children. Additionally, peak levels of PM exposure in children may be important in understanding the origins of early childhood conditions such as asthma.

 

Unfortunately, the size and weight of sampling equipment limit or preclude their use for direct measurements of PM exposures in very young children, such as infants and toddlers (ages >6 to 36 months). The Pre-toddler Inhalable Particulate Environmental Robotic (PIPER Mk IV) has been developed over the last 5 years to provide a surrogate method to ascertain personal exposures to PM for children too young to have exposure measured by conventional personal sampling methodologies.

 

PIPER provides a mobile autonomous platform on which to mount personal sampling devices. PIPER has been programmed to reproduce the pattern of a child's movement while at play on the floor, and, like a child, disturbs and resuspends settled house dust. The PIPER Mk IV is the result of over 5 years of development and testing and has proven its reliability in tests in over 50 homes participating in an NIEHS funded study.

 

Our work has been to carry out a validation study of this alternate personal sampling methodology using the robotic surrogate (PIPER) for young children's exposure to PM. The study is being carried out by mounting identical sampling systems on PIPER in side-by-side with 100 children (50 boys and 50 girls) at play in their own homes. Children between >24 and 36 months of age have been recruited from participants of the existing PIPER Asthma Study and the pediatric practices participating in that study in central New Jersey.

 

The goal of this validation study is to provide researchers a new and novel tool for characterizing young children's exposure to environmental contaminants. This study is designed to prove the value of a small robot (PIPER) to measure exposures of young children to environmental chemicals without having to actually have children present. The study uses identical air sampling equipment on PIPER and 100 children at play in their own homes. Children between 2 and 3 years old will be recruited from families who are participating in a current study of childhood asthma in central New Jersey.

 

Knowing both the type and the level of exposures that affect children is essential to understanding the causes of environmentally linked childhood diseases. Because of the size and weight of sampling equipment, studies like this range from difficult in 2-year-olds to impossible in children who are younger. The Pre-toddler Inhalable Particulate Environmental Robotic (PIPER Mk IV) sampler has been developed over the last 5 years to measure personal exposures to airborne environmental contaminants for children too young to have exposure measured by existing personal sampling technology. This mobile system carries personal sampling devices and has been programmed to reproduce the pattern of a child's movement while at play on the floor, including disturbing and resuspending settled dust and any contaminants that might be present.

 

See this project's publications and patents 

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