Air pollution and your baby
A little fresh air is good for your baby. But polluted air is a different story. Air pollution is harmful substances in the air—like car exhaust, chemicals from factories, dust, pollen and mold--that can affect breathing and harm your baby’s health.
Don’t think you have to keep your baby inside all the time. There are things you can do to help keep your baby safe from air pollution.
How can air pollution affect your baby’s health?
Air pollution can cause coughing, burning eyes and tightness in the chest. These problems can be worse for babies and children with asthma. Asthma is a health condition that affects the airways and can cause breathing problems.
How can you keep your baby safe from air pollution?
Here’s what you can do:
- If you live close to a source of air pollution or your baby has a heart or lung problem (like asthma), talk to your baby’s health care provider about keeping your baby safe from air pollution.
- When local health officials give out air pollution or smog alerts, keep your baby inside and limit his time outside. Ozone gas is a major part of air pollution in cities. When ozone forms air pollution, it’s also called smog. On alert days, take your baby outside early in the morning or after sunset.
- Visit airnow.gov to check the air quality in your area.
What causes air pollution?
Air pollution can come from sources like:
- Cars, buses, airplanes, trucks and trains
- Factories, power plants and dry cleaners
Both cities and rural areas can have air pollution. In cities, air pollution gets worse when the air is calm (no wind), the sun is bright and the temperature is warm.
What can you do to help reduce the amount of air pollution in your area?
Everything you buy or use has an effect on the environment. When you buy products that use less energy and last a long time, you help pollute the air less.
Here’s what you can do to help you shop for energy-efficient products that may help reduce air pollution:
- Buy Energy Star products, like energy-efficient lights and appliances. Energy Star products are approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (also called the EPA) because they help protect the environment. For more information, visit energystar.gov.
- Buy cars and trucks that pollute as little as possible. For more information, check out the EPA’s Green Vehicle Guide.
- Choose products that have little packaging and that can be reused. Use reusable shopping bags instead of bags made of paper or plastic.
- Use rechargeable batteries.
Here’s what you can do around your home to help reduce air pollution:
- Recycle paper, plastic, glass, cardboard and aluminum. Use recycled products and reuse bags and boxes.
- Use Energy Star LED lights and appliances. LED stands for light-emitting diodes. These lights use at least 75 percent less energy than other lights. Turn off lights and appliances when you leave a room.
- Use the microwave to cook or reheat small meals.
- Plant trees around your house to provide shade in the summer.
- Properly store and dispose of paint, pesticides and solvents. Pesticides are chemicals used to kill things like bugs, rodents, mold or weeds. Solvents are chemicals (like turpentine or paint thinner) that dissolve other substances. Store paint, pesticides and solvents in airtight containers. Don’t use paint sprayers. Ask your local health department or environmental agency to tell you how to dispose of these products.
- Keep air conditioners, heaters, furnaces wood stoves and fireplaces in good working order. Put your heat and air conditioning on a timer so they’re not used as much when you’re not at home. Insulate your home, water heater and pipes. Insulation helps keep heat from escaping and may help you pay less for energy to heat your home.
Last reviewed September 2014
See also: Air pollution and pregnancy
Frequently Asked Questions
Are plastic baby bottles that use BPA & phthalates safe?
Scientists are debating whether BPA (bisphenol A) and phthalates pose a risk to children's health. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has expressed concerns about chemicals used in plastics. BPA is used to make plastics clear, strong and hard to break. Some baby bottles, dishes and toys contain this chemical. Some research has found that bisphenol A can affect the brain, behavior and prostate gland in infants and children.
If you're concerned, buy BPA-free plastic baby products. You can also use baby bottles made of glass, polypropylene or polyethylene. If you use plastics, avoid plastics numbered 3 or 7 (look for the number in a triangle typically found on the bottom of containers). Use plastics numbered 1, 2 and 4. If plastic baby bottles and infant cups contain BPA, discard them if they have scratches. Don't put boiling or very hot liquids, such as formula, into plastic bottles or containers that contain BPA.