RAWSTUFF:

Bubble Buggy: air-cleansing(!) pushchair , by Robert Uhlig

The Millennium Debate, The Daily Telegraph, 8 January 1999

Paranoid parenthood has a new accessory. A British company has launched the world's first baby buggy with a pollution proof passenger capsule.

Stephen Kuester, a first-time inventor and former space probe designer, developed the Baby+Air pushchair to protect children from urban smog, traffic exhausts and radiation from the sun. He said: "I noticed that children are at the same height as car exhausts and thought something ought to be done."

Three years research, 1 million development costs and a sheaf of worldwide patents later, his 500 pushchair is rolling out of a Warwickshire factory at a rate of 1,000 per month. The buggy has a battery-driven fan to suck air through a filter and pump 160 litres of cleaned air a minute into a protective plastic cocoon. The filter, used in masks worn by firemen, is claimed to remove 99 per cent of pollution, including diesel particulates, pollen, ozone, benzene and asbestos from car brake pads.

The buggy can carry children from two months to four years old in a dust and pollutant-free environment. The pressurised air inside the bubble prevents air from outside seeping through ventilation holes in the hood. With 1.5 million children under 15 - one in seven - suffering from asthma, Mr Kuester expects that demand for his brainchild could be high. Mothercare is already stocking the Baby+Air pushchair at some of its larger stores.

Mr Kuester, 31, whose girlfriend gave birth to his first child shortly before Christmas, developed the new pushchair after designing a prototype for his master's degree at the Royal College of Art. He said it had been tested at military establishments to ensure children inside it would not feel claustrophobic even at desert temperatures. He said: "It is remarkably roomy inside and the plastic used in the canopy contains infrared and ultraviolet reflectors to reduce the child's exposure to sunlight."

The buggy may not be cheap, but the price does include a range of accessories. These include an all-weather parasol, a removable footrest, and cushions and liners that would usually be add-ons with other buggies. With a target market of well-heeled, environmentally-concerned urban parents, the buggy is designed to appeal to the kind of customer who appreciates a functional design and would favour a Dyson vacuum cleaner over a standard Hoover.

Mr Kuester said: "It is unique: it has real tyres, real bearings and glides along. The frame is made of aircraft-specification aluminium tubing and it folds like origami. Other buggies are all polka dots and frills. We've gone for a clean, high-tech look, innovation and modern materials."

However, transport action groups said yesterday that the new invention was "a sad comment on society today". They said the invention of a pollution proof buggy highlighted the need for the Government to inject more money into the public transport system.c Cynthia Hay, of London's Capital Transport Campaign, said: "I think this really highlights the very real pollution problems we face in Britain's cities. With the worries that we hear about over health I expect this buggy will sell well. I think that it is a terrible indictment on us that our children will see their world through a plastic bubble because of the world we have caused."

 
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