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Your baby's environment

  • Keep your baby away from harmful products and chemicals.
  • Don’t smoke and keep your baby away from secondhand smoke.
  • Make sure your home is free from things like lead and mold.
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Asbestos and your baby

Asbestos is a mineral fiber that can resist fire and heat. Asbestos was used to fireproof, soundproof and insulate homes, schools and other buildings during the 1940s through the 1970s. It also was used in floor tiles, roof shingles, car parts and other products. Some older homes still have asbestos in insulation used for pipes, stoves, walls and ceilings.

Even if asbestos is in your home, it’s usually not a serious problem. It’s only harmful to your health if it becomes damaged and crumbly, so that its fibers get into the air.

Breathing in high levels of asbestos over a long period of time can cause asbestos fibers to build up in your lungs. This can lead to serious health problems, like scarring in the lungs, lung cancer and a rare form of cancer called mesothelioma that affects the lining of the lungs or stomach.

What parts of your home may have asbestos?

Your home may have asbestos in:

  • Roof and siding shingles
  • Insulation in walls, ceilings and around hot water and steam pipes
  • Vinyl floor tiles and the backing on vinyl sheet flooring 
  • Textured paint and patching compounds used on wall and ceilings 
  • Walls and floors around wood-burning stoves that are protected with asbestos paper, millboard or cement sheets
  • Oil and coal furnaces 
  • Artificial ashes and embers in gas fireplaces 

How can you keep your baby safe from asbestos in your home?

Here’s what you can do:

  • If you think you’re exposed to asbestos in your home, hire a professional inspector to check your home. Your local health department can give you a list of inspectors.
  • If your home contains asbestos that’s in good condition, it may be best to leave it alone. Your asbestos inspector can give you advice on what to do. If the asbestos must be removed, hire a licensed contractor to do the work. Don’t try to remove the asbestos yourself. Your local health department can give you a list of contractors to remove asbestos.
  • Don’t let your baby play near anything that may contain asbestos.
  • Don’t touch, remove, dust or sweep anything that may contain asbestos.
  • Don’t track dust that may contain asbestos through the house.

More information

Environmental Protection Agency

Last reviewed September 2014

Hazards around the home

  • Secondhand smoke
  • Spots of mold growth
  • Pesticides on vegetables and fruits or outdoors
  • Carbon monoxide from stoves and appliances
  • Lead from old pipes, old paint and certain toys

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.

Have questions?