Improving air quality in the child breathing zone


The quality of air-outdoor or indoor- takes a toll on human health with time. Recent studies have revealed that most people spend about 90% of their time indoors and 75% of their time indoors at home. Indoor air pollution can lead to significant health issues and some groups, including children, pregnant women, and limited resource households are at higher risk for experiencing negative health impacts from indoor air pollutant exposure. Indoor air polluting elements have been seen to emanate from materials used in constructing the structure, construction techniques employed, activities within the indoor space and connection of the indoor space to the external environment.

Babies crawl on the floor and young children walk, run, and play on the floor; thus, the breathing zone of children is much lower (up to 1 m from the floor). Adults and children literally breathe different air. Despite the increasing awareness concerning the deterioration of the child breathing zone due to poor indoor air quality in the scientific community, there is very limited research with a focus on the child breathing zone. Furthermore, no current indoor air quality management system has been designed to specifically focus on improving the indoor air quality in the child breathing zone.

To this note, Eeshan Tripathii a student at The Dalton School and his mentor professor Joseph Laquatra from the Department of Design and Environmental Analysis at Cornell University demonstrated that the child breathing zone (CBZ) needs special attention. Their research shows that the simplifying assumption of uniform distribution of air pollutant leads to underestimation of risk exposure to children and because of the simplifying assumption, current building and ventilation system designs are inadequate in addressing the exposure risk and protecting infants and young children. Their empirical analysis shows that stratification (air pollutant concentration varies with height) and resuspension (stirring of dust and pollutants due to activity) necessitates rethinking the remediation strategies.

The goal of their research was to examine a method for providing better indoor air quality in the child breathing zone to reduce short- and long-term health risks for children and other occupants. Their work is currently published in the research journal, Journal of Architectural Engineering. The research method employed commenced with the selection of a residential room facing vehicular traffic. The windows to this room were kept open for 24 hours so as to seed the room with particulate matter. Next, Mr. Tripathii brought in a mechanical robot accompanied by an adult to simulate the movement of a child for a 10-minutes period. He then proceeded to collect the indoor air quality data in the child breathing zone and adult breathing zone over different floor surfaces.

The authors observed that children faced higher risk as the air pollutant concentration in the child breathing zone became substantially higher, and these higher concentrations persisted for a longer period of time. Moreover, the risk was seen to be amplified by the jumping, crawling and movement of the child since such movement created a higher particulate matter concentration due to resuspension.

The Eeshan Tripathii- Joseph Laquatra study demonstrated the applicability of cost effective tools to monitor and measure air-quality parameters and to use the monitoring mechanism to create a solution that automatically improves IAQ by either automatically removing the suspended fine particles or by encouraging proactive remedial action. Altogether, their work builds on the insight that conveying information along with practical measures can minimize risks of exposure to indoor air pollutants.

Improving air quality in the child breathing zone. Advances in Engineering

About the author

Joseph Laquatra, Ph.D. is a professor emeritus in the Department of Design and Environmental Analysis at Cornell University.  He focuses his teaching and research efforts on sustainable aspects of housing.  He has studied indoor air quality since 1986 and has presented his findings at international and national conferences and has published them in numerous journals.

His outreach efforts on this topic have been directed to homeowners and home builders. He has also taught builders, engineers, architects, and government officials in Poland, Russia, and Japan. Joe is a past President of the Housing Education and Research Association and served two terms as Chair of the National Consortium of Housing Research Centers. He is listed in Who’s Who Among American Teachers and Educators, Who’s Who in America, and Who’s Who in the World.

About the author

Eeshan Tripathii is a rising senior at The Dalton School, NYC, and lives in Montclair, NJ. He is passionate about ways that emerging technologies of AI and machine learning can help solve complex environmental and medical problems. Eeshan loves architecture and art; he received four 2018 Scholastic Gold Architecture & Industrial Design awards and is a recipient of 16 Scholastic Medals (Architecture, Art, and Writing). His work has been featured at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He is the editor and graphics designer of a school magazine. Eeshan participates in Hackathons, studies creative machine learning programs, and serves as the co-head of his school’s Chess Club. He enjoys Taekwondo and cross country. Eeshan is the founder of the Hurricane Relief Fund in his school that utilizes artwork donated by school students to support victims of natural disasters.

His research work is motivated by his passion for helping people and has received a number of awards: Intel ISEF 2018 Grand Award, Second Place in Environmental Engineering; Davidson Fellowship, 2018; Intel ISEF 2018 Special Award, Thermo Fisher; Google Science Fair, Community Impact Finalist, 2016; Sarah and Morris Wiesenthal Science Award, NYCSEF 2018; Innovation Award, NJRSF 2016 and numerous other science fair awards. Eeshan has presented his research at a Healthy Homes Conference, PA, 2017, as an invited speaker, where his research was appreciated by leading professionals in the field. Eeshan is continuing his research work and was at Cornell University in the summer of 2018. He is excited to continue developing solutions for complex air quality problems and hopes that his research will directly improve people’s lives. Eeshan’s biggest supporter has been his mentor, Professor Laquatra of Cornell University. Professor Laquatra supervised his research and has always encouraged him to pursue his research independently.

It was Professor Laquatra and his research that inspired Eeshan to seek a cost-effective solution. Eeshan has created the first ever integrated solution that brings together quantification of IAQ and auto-responsive air remediation capabilities, in a modular and customized design, at an affordable price. This network system utilizes recurrent neural network long short-term memory algorithms and stochastic simulations to create a smart, proactive, ductless network that focuses on improving IAQ while maintaining thermal and cost efficiency.


Eeshan Tripathii and Joseph Laquatra. Managing Indoor Air Quality in the Child Breathing Zone: Risk Analysis and Mitigation. Journal of Architectural Engineering, 2018, volume 24(1): 04018002.

Go To Journal of Architectural Engineering

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