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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 is a natural fiber. It 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, roofing material, car parts and other products. You usually can’t tell by looking if something contains asbestos, but some older homes still have asbestos in things like the insulation used for pipes, stoves, walls and ceilings.

How can asbestos affect your baby’s health?

Asbestos is only harmful to your baby’s health if it breaks down and becomes crumbly, so that its fibers float in the air. This can happen if you have repair work done on your house and a material with asbestos (like insulation in the walls or floor tiles) is broken down. This can release asbestos fibers into the air.

Breathing in high levels of asbestos over a long period can cause asbestos fibers to build up in your lungs. This can lead to serious health problems, like:

  • Asbestosis. This is scarring of the lungs that makes it hard to breathe.
  • Mesothelioma. This is a rare cancer that affects the lining of the lungs or stomach.
  • Lung cancer

Most people don’t breathe in harmful levels of asbestos. But if you live near an asbestos mine, or a factory that makes asbestos products, there may be high levels of asbestos in the air.

What parts of the home may have asbestos?

Asbestos may be found in:

  • Roofing and siding shingles
  • Insulation in houses built between 1930 and 1950  
  • Vinyl tiles and the backing on vinyl sheet flooring  
  • Oil and coal furnaces  
  • Hot water and steam pipes in older homes  
  • Textured paint and patching compounds used on wall and ceilings  
  • Artificial ashes and embers in gas-fired fireplaces  
  • Walls and floors around wood-burning stoves that are protected with asbestos paper, millboard or cement sheets

How can you keep your baby safe from asbestos?

To keep your baby safe:

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

More information

Environmental Protection Agency

Last reviewed December 2013

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.

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