The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that indoor air quality can be 2 to 5 times worse than the air outside. While this is a health issue for everyone, it’s of special concern to parents of infants. Babies have undeveloped immune systems, making them particularly susceptible to airborne contaminants. These contaminants may increase the likelihood of allergies or even cause asthma when they’re older. Parents can protect their children from the very start by ensuring that they breathe safe, clean air.
Protect Infants from Contaminants
Airborne contaminants linger in homes, even if one can’t see or smell them. They commonly come from cleaners, detergents, and plastics. Certain materials trap allergens and other pollutants – carpeting, upholstered furniture, sofas, chairs, and mattresses. Dust mites, pollen and mold may become trapped or grow hidden from sight. Since babies spend most of their day on these types of materials, it’s vital that parents learn about the hidden dangers and take steps to mitigate them.
Choose Wise Bedding and Furniture
There are many ways parents can limit the contaminants that infants inhale. They should first think about their baby’s mattress – choose a latex foam mattress rather than the fibrous varieties that trap dust mites. Cover the mattress and pillows with organic covers. Make a point to wash these covers in detergents that are free of perfumes and dyes. Also make sure to wash using very hot water since it kills off any dust mites.
Some nursery furniture may contain formaldehyde, a colorless gas that can irritate the respiratory system. Formaldehyde variants are commonly used in permanent furniture adhesives, among many other things. Before purchasing any furniture, parents should make sure it’s formaldehyde-free.
Leave Shoes at the Door
Part of the reason indoor air quality is worse is because contaminants get brought into the home, but aren’t cleaned out. Walking around outside exposes one’s shoes to numerous pollutants – chemicals on pavement, pesticides on grass – which people then track into their homes. These pollutants can get trapped in carpets, rugs, and on furniture. A quick way to lessen that likelihood is to take off shoes as soon as one enters the door. Nurseries should be shoe-free zones.
Reduce Chemical Fumes
Chemical fumes are so insidious because they’re invisible. The very products people use to clean their homes or polish furniture also release potentially harmful chemicals into the air. Parents should choose natural, green cleaners to limit the fumes a baby is exposed to. Such cleaners are also better for the environment in general. Another big source of fumes is the paint that parents use on nursery walls. Unfortunately, many types of wall paint contain Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC's) which get released into the air as the paint dries. Though the long-term impact of such fumes isn’t well understood, the EPA does suspect that some VOCs may be carcinogenic. Parents should make sure the paint they use is free of VOCs.
Part of the problem of poor indoor air quality is that parents don’t realize it exists. Despite being invisible to the naked eye, airborne contaminants can still cause health problems. It’s best for parents and their infants if parents make clean air a priority. Thankfully, there are ways for parents to improve indoor air quality by cleaning the air, as well as limiting contaminants.
Improving Indoor Air Quality
Parents can impact the air their infants breathe in several ways. Air conditioners or humidifiers are classic examples, but they may be too harsh for an infant’s system or may be inappropriate for the climatic conditions depending on where the family lives. To improve indoor air quality, parents should purchase an air purifier. Air purifiers clean the air of pollutants already present in the home. The most effective air purifiers have HEPA filters which remove 99.97% of particles bigger than 0.3 microns. This can include everything from bacteria and viruses to dust mites and mold spores. Some manufacturers even make models specifically for infants like the Austin Air Baby’s Breath air purifier. A HEPA air purifier will let parents breathe easier knowing that their baby has clean air, both day and night.
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