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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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Drinking water

For most Americans, drinking water from the faucet is among the safest water in the world. The federal government regulates most drinking water in the United States. Problems are most likely to occur in private wells or small water systems that serve less than a thousand people. For their size, children drink much more water than adults. So it’s important that their water be as safe as possible.

What you can do to protect the safety of tap water for your child

  • For children under 1 year old, have the water tested for nitrates. Nitrates can cause anemia in children. When children have anemia, their blood cannot carry enough oxygen for the cells in the body to work and grow well. Your local health department or environmental agency can tell you how to find an inspector.
  • Use cold water for drinking, cooking, and preparing formula. Lead and other unsafe substances can build up in hot water heaters.
  • If the water hasn’t been turned on for six or more hours, let it run for a minute or more before you make formula or other kinds of food for your baby. This will help prevent exposure to lead and other pollutants that may be in the water or the pipes.
  • At least once a year, test any drinking water that is not regulated. Example: a private well.
  • To learn more about the quality of your drinking water, contact your local health department or environmental agency. Or call the Safe Drinking Water Hotline at the Environmental Protection Agency, (800) 426-4791.

To learn about lead in water pipes, read Protecting Your Baby from Lead.

Bottled water

In the United States, more people are drinking bottled water than ever before. But many brands simply take water from the faucet and repackage it as bottled water. The federal government regulates bottled water.

Bottled water sometimes tastes better than tap water, but it usually costs more. Unless you know that your water supply is contaminated, bottled water usually offers no health benefits over tap water.

Fluoride is usually not added to bottled water. Fluoride promotes strong teeth and prevents tooth decay. For this reason, many public systems add fluoride to water. So if you are giving your children bottled water, be sure to tell their doctor or dentist.

Water filtering systems

Some families use a water filtering system in their house. These systems can improve the way water tastes and looks.

Some filters attach to the faucet and treat the water as it comes through the tap. Other filters are placed inside special water containers.

Water purified by these systems costs less than bottled water. But homeowners need to carefully maintain the filters. Without proper care, bacteria or other contaminants can build up in them.

April 2008

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?