Air pollution is dangerous to one’s health and very young children, especially babies, are at risk of experiencing adverse health consequences of exposure.
One study published in 2019 found a concerning link between infant mortality and air pollution. The researchers warned that babies in areas where there are high levels of pollutants in the air are more likely to die than those who breathe clean air.
Air pollution has long been known to cause respiratory illnesses, including lung problems. When constantly inhaled by pregnant women, air pollution can cause a low infant birth weight.
However, being indoors cannot save a child from air pollution. In some cases, the quality of air inside a house is up to 10 times worse than the air outside.
Babies spend the majority of their young lives in their homes. What can parents do to ensure that the indoor air that their babies breathe is safe?
Keep It Clean
Indoor air pollutants come from dust, air fresheners, cleaning products, cooking, printers, and tobacco smoke. With proper ventilation, these pollutants are released outdoors where they will be immediately dispersed and not harm people.
Most homes in the United States now have air conditioning and, to keep the air in, homeowners shut their windows close. Often, these homes are not ventilated enough for pollutants to go out.
HVAC systems have filters that remove pollutants from indoor air. However, if not replaced and cleaned, its efficiency drops substantially. The HVAC might be circulating pollutants throughout the house.
Homeowners should add duct cleaning and replacing the filters into their regular routines. Experts advise homeowners to replace filters at least twice a year or every six months and thorough cleaning of air ducts every three to five years.
Capture Particles Out of the Air
Air purifiers are devices that work by capturing particles from the indoor air. There are several variants out there, but parents should opt for those that have high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters which can trap pollutants that are up to 0.3 microns in size. HEPA filters can remove viruses — including SARS-CoV-2, according to The New York Times — that are no bigger than 0.3 microns.
Be wary of air purifiers that clean the air with ions that charge particles so that they would fall much quicker. Although efficient, these machines tend to release ozone, a type of gas that, if inhaled, can irritate the lungs.
Read the Label
One study has found a correlation between the heavy use of cleaning products and the prevalence of asthma. The researchers discovered that children who grew in homes where there was greater use of cleaning products were more likely to experience recurrent wheezing and be diagnosed with asthma before the age of 3.
The highest risk of respiratory conditions was associated with households that use scented and sprayed cleaning products.
Not all cleaning products are bad and cleaning products that claim to be “green” or “all-natural” are not always better. Public health experts recommend that parents learn which ingredients might harm children and then identify which cleaning products do not have them.
One common ingredient found in cleaning products that have been linked with asthma is benzalkonium chloride used in antibacterial sprays and in fabric conditioners. Sodium borate, or borax, can disrupt the production of certain hormones in the body.
Welcome the Fresh Outdoor Air
It is a common recommendation that, to increase ventilation, you have to leave the windows open. However, is the same applies to homes where there are babies?
The answer is yes. The air outside is unlikely to harm your child. In fact, one study found that babies who slept with the windows open (or an indoor fan turned on) are far less likely to experience Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
Just be mindful of the outdoor temperature. It is better to open the windows during the cooler portions of the day in summer. Babies can overheat if they are exposed to high ambient temperatures.
Experts also caution about window blinds which can become a safety hazard. It is best to pull their cribs toward the part of the room that is far from the window.
Babies are extremely delicate creatures and the environment around them can affect their health. As they grow older, they might carry the consequences of being exposed to indoor air pollutants.
Parents want to as much as possible to protect their children. While they cannot shield their children from all the dangers of the world, they can minimize risks by being well-aware of anything that can harm them.