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Research and Practice

The INnovations to Generate Estimates of children's Soil/dust inTake (INGEST) Study

illustration of baby with fingers in mouth

Infants, toddlers, and young children learn and explore their environment by putting their hands and other objects in their mouths. In order to promote environmental policies that keep this type of exploration safe, scientists need to better understand how much dust and soil children get in their mouths while engaging in these behaviors. Current scientific approaches for figuring out  how much soil and dust children get in their mouths do not work well. As a result, we need to develop new ways to estimate their soil and dust exposures. 

The INnovations to Generate Estimates of children's Soil/dust inTake (INGEST) Study is a multi-disciplinary effort to improve scientific methods for estimating children’s soil and dust intake. This research has three main objectives:

  1. To determine how much time children under the age of 6 spend in macro-activities that involve contact with soil and dust, like playing or crawling on the ground: Caregivers of children under 6 years of age will be asked to complete hourly, mobile-based surveys to determine how children spend their time, including sleeping, eating, and playing.
  2. To develop improved methods to estimate the micro-activities (i.e. hand-to-mouth or object-to-mouth behaviors) of children. We will film children between the ages of 6 and 18 months to record their micro-activities. We will use cutting-edge computer vision and micro-analytic coding to count the number of times these events occur. This will involve teaching computers to count micro-activities, something that is especially labor-intensive without artificial intelligence. We will validate the computer vision method with traditional behavioral coding conducted by people.
  3. To identify novel organic chemicals that can serve as tracers of children's exposure to soil and dust. We will collect and analyze urine and stool from children between 6 and 12 months and food, soil, and dust from their homes. We will use non-target analysis and analyze the patterns of chemical occurrence in the biological and environmental samples to identify the best possible chemical tracers to use in future studies of soil and dust exposure.

ARE YOU THE PARENT OR GUARDIAN OF A CHILD UNDER 6 YEARS OLD? If YES, you may be eligible to participate in a study about how children interact with their environment.

Why is this study being done? The study will help researchers estimate how much contact children have with soil and dust and could help develop better protections for children’s health.

What is it like to be in this study? Depending on your availability and the age of your child, you could be asked to fill out surveys on your smartphone, the study team could film a short video of your child playing, or they could collect samples of food, formula, diapers, soil, and dust from your home.

What do I get for participating in this study? You could earn gift cards worth $50 or more, depending on your participation.

Contact the study team to learn more: 410-502-8925 |

We are currently recruiting! If you’re interested in participating, please complete this short form, and a member of our study team will contact you if you are eligible for our study.

Telephone: 410-502-8925
Follow us on Twitter: @INGEST_Study

Meet Our Investigators



Optimization of a method for collecting infant and toddler urine for non-target analysis using cotton pads and commercially available disposable diapers

Sara N. Lupolt, Matthew N. Newmeyer, Qinfan Lyu, Carsten Prasse, Keeve E. Nachman