We've all heard the horrible reports about the rise in outdoor air pollution.
Now, even if you don't live in (or near) a big city, you're hometown can still be affected by factory smoke and major pollutants. That's because microscopic pollution can travel thousands of miles by the wind.
In fact, smog in the western United States has been linked to air pollution that started in Asia.
Unfortunately, staying indoors is not a perfect solution.
The Environmental Protection Agency has reported that indoor air is 2 to 5 times worse than the outdoors because those outdoor pollutants get trapped inside and the chemicals and materials we use in our homes further contaminates the air that surrounds us.
Sadly, children are the ones who face the biggest risk from exposure to indoor and outdoor pollutants because their lugs are still developing after birth. Plus, infants breathe in a whole lot more air than adults do when compared to the size of their lung capacity.
80% of a child's air sacs develop after being born and those sacs (called alveoli) are what sustains the transfer of oxygen to the blood. And these sacs are not fully developed until that child becomes an adult.
Another issue that baby's face is the lack of immunity to fight off infections. This is also in development as the years go buy and leaves a child more exposed to the impacts of breathing in air pollution. Being surrounded by poor air quality indoors can lead to a number of respiratory infections in an otherwise healthy child.
Ambient air pollution has also been linked to mortality in children and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
Now, I don't mean to share all of this information to scare you.
But rather to bring your attention to this topic so that you can notice the signs that your baby may be suffering from the effects of poor air quality.
If your infant is experiencing any of these physical symptoms, your indoor or outdoor air quality may be the culprit. To be sure, always consult a physician who can confirm if air pollution may be hurting your child.
- shortness of breath
- frequent (or sporadic) coughing
- overly fatigued
So, what can you do to protect your baby from indoor air pollution?
For starters, you can add an air purifier to your home.
Air purifiers are special machines that strip airborne pollutants out of the air. The best versions of air purifiers are ones that use True HEPA filters.
True HEPA filters are certified filters that remove up to 99.97% of particles down to 0.3 microns in diameter. This includes the ultrafine pollutants that cause the most damage to a child's respiratory system (i.e. dust, allergens, and PM2.5 particulate matter).
An air purifier can also get rid of other toxins floating around in your home, such as bacteria, viruses, mold spores, and volatile organic compounds. You just need to make sure that the device includes an ultraviolet or UV-C light. This UV-C light sterilizes air as it passes through the air purifier, leaving your home free of harmful germs.
There are literally hundreds of different types of air purifiers for sale today, but not every model is designed for children. This baby air purifier list is a good place to start for recommendations.
Now, protecting your baby's room is just one part of the solution.
The other things you can do to keep the air quality in your home good is to follow these tips:
- Never allow smoking indoors
- Change your HVAC filters every 3 months
- Choose organic and non-toxic cleaners
- Use only zero VOC paints and varnishes
- Vacuum weekly
- Keep windows and doors shut as much as possible if you live in the city
- Disinfect your home if anyone gets sick
If you have a home with many rooms, you should also consider getting an air purifier for those spaces as well. Having several home air purifiers can keep the entirety of your house free of pollutants.
Key Findings by WHO
I'd like to end this article with a few statistics from the World Health Organization's (WHO) Report on Air Pollution and Children Health:
- Air pollution is one of the leading threats to child health, accounting for almost 1 in 10 deaths in children under five years of age.
- Air pollution is damaging children’s lung function, even at lower levels of exposures.
- Globally, 93% of the world’s children under 15 years of age are exposed to ambient fine particulate matter (PM2.5) levels above WHO air quality guidelines, which include the 630 million of children under 5 years of age, and 1.8 billion of children under 15 years.
- In low- and middle-income countries around the world, 98% of all children under 5 are exposed to PM2.5 levels above WHO air quality guidelines. In comparison, in high-income countries, 52% of children under 5 are exposed to levels above WHO air quality guidelines.
- More than 40% of the world’s population – which includes 1 billion children under 15 - is exposed to high levels of household air pollution from mainly cooking with polluting technologies and fuels.
- About 600,000 deaths in children under 15 years of age were attributed to the joint effects of ambient and household air pollution in 2016.
- Together, household air pollution from cooking and ambient (outside) air pollution cause more than 50% of acute lower respiratory infections in children under 5 years of age in low- and middle-income countries.