See a creepy robot baby crawl on dirty carpet for science

Babies breathe up to four times the amount of bacteria, fungus and debris, compared with adults. Should parents worry?

Bonnie Burton
Journalist Bonnie Burton writes about movies, TV shows, comics, science and robots. She is the author of the books Live or Die: Survival Hacks, Wizarding World: Movie Magic Amazing Artifacts, The Star Wars Craft Book, Girls Against Girls, Draw Star Wars, Planets in Peril and more! E-mail Bonnie.
Bonnie Burton
2 min read

Babies can get into plenty of trouble once they learn to crawl. However, parents may not recognize another potential threat: the amount of dirt, bacteria and fungus babies breathe in as they crawl across floors, especially carpeted ones. 

"Infant and Adult Inhalation Exposure to Resuspended Biological Particulate Matter," a study published in the January issue of Environmental Science Technology, reveals that crawling infants can inhale matter into their lungs that is "four times (per kilogram of body mass) what an adult would breathe" walking across the same floor.   

The scientists behind the study built a simplified robot to simulate a baby crawling across different kinds of carpet to see how much dust and microbes were disturbed by the action. The data was also collected to determine how much of the debris entered the robot's mouth.

The results showed that for an infant a greater amount of the biological particles from the dust ends up in the lower airways of the respiratory system. 

But before parents panic, Brandon Boor, one of the co-authors of the study and an assistant professor of environmental and ecological engineering at Purdue University, insists this could be a good thing. 

"We are interested in the biological material an infant inhales, especially during their first year of life when they are crawling," Boor said in a statement earlier this month. "Many studies have shown that inhalation exposure to microbes and allergen-carrying particles in that portion of life plays a significant role in both the development of, and protection from, asthma and allergic diseases. There are studies that have shown that being exposed to a high diversity and concentration of biological materials may reduce the prevalence of asthma and allergies later in life." 

The study is at step toward understanding infant health, but it's also captivating to watch a metallic robot baby crawl and create a mini-dust storm a bit like Pig-Pen from "Peanuts."

CNET Magazine: Check out a sample of the stories in CNET's newsstand edition.

It's Complicated: This is dating in the age of apps. Having fun yet?