Exposure of young children to settled dust: an analysis of parental knowledge and risk perception


  • Bertoldo Raquel
  • Malleret Laure


  • Settled dust
  • Fine particles
  • Risk perception
  • Household hazards
  • Perception bias
  • Air quality

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The exposure of young children to fine aerial or settled dust potentially has serious consequences to their health. Because of the behaviour typically observed among young children - floor play and hand-to-mouth contact – this group is particularly exposed to settled dust in the household, where their parents are most often responsible for managing children's exposure to these particles: they are the ones who know about the dangers presented by these particles; perceive this danger as important and, consequently, take actions. Still, these actions are related to household chores (especially vacuum cleaning) that are also part of the household management styles. This research proposed to explore parents of young children's perception of this domestic risk exposure through two waves of online questionnaires. Parents were mostly contacted through parent-school associations in the Aix-Marseille perimeter, located in South-East France. The first wave took place during the first COVID lockdown in June 2020 and the second one, in April 2021. Participants were inquired about (1) what they knew about settled dust and household air quality (knowledge); (2) how did they estimate their children’s exposure to settled dust in a variety of environments (risk perception); and (3) what type of parenting style they adopted. Results show an ‘optimism bias’: they estimate their children to be less exposed to dust than children in general. Perceived risk of exposure is seen to be higher in open-air situations than indoors at school or at home. Finally, dust-cleaning behaviors are mainly explained by parental style – other predictive variables seem to play a minor role. In conclusion, home cleaning practices in densely populated or industrialized areas could play a role in preventing young children's exposure to dust. Still, the prevention of young children's exposure to dust is deeply rooted in household practices and habits – highly dependent on family organization. Experimental studies could shed light on how information about fine particle risks could increase the adoption of more preventive behavior in the household.

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