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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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Pesticides and your baby

Pesticides are chemicals used to kill things like bugs, rodents, mold or weeds. You can use some pesticides in your home. Others are for use only outside or on crops.

While pesticides may be helpful in keeping your home pest-free, they can cause health problems for your baby. You may not be able to protect your baby from all pesticides, but there are things you can do to limit your baby’s exposure to (contact with) them.

How is your baby exposed to pesticides?

Your baby may come in contact with pesticides as part of everyday life. Pesticides may be in: 

  • Air and water
  • Bug sprays
  • Cleaning products, like bleach
  • Food. Farmers may use pesticides on food crops to protect them from insects. 
  • Lawn and garden products, like weed killer. Grass in public spaces, like parks, may be treated with pesticides to keep bugs away and weeds from growing. 
  • Pet products, like flea and tick shampoo
  • Rodent poisons, like mouse or rat bait

How can pesticides affect your baby’s health?

Pesticides are more dangerous for babies and children than adults because their bodies are still developing. Some research shows that exposure to pesticides as a baby may be linked to childhood cancer and development or behavior problems. But other studies haven’t found these links, so we need more research. 

Pesticides can be poisonous to your baby if she:

  • Swallows them
  • Breathes in large amounts from the air
  • Absorbs large amounts through her skin 

Your baby may have pesticide poisoning if he has:

  • Belly pain
  • Bleeding in the nose or gums
  • Coughing or trouble breathing
  • Diarrhea, nausea (feeling sick to his stomach) or throwing up
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Seizures

If you think your baby has pesticide poisoning, call 911 or the Poison Control Center at (800) 222-1222. 

How can you keep your baby safe from pesticides in food?

Here’s what you can do:

  • Feed your child organic foods. These are foods that are grown without pesticides.
  • Buy fresh fruits and vegetables that are in season. They may have fewer pesticides on them when they’re in season.  
  • Wash and scrub all fruits and vegetables under running water. This helps clean away any pesticides they may have on them. 
  • Peel fruits and vegetables and throw away outer leaves of leafy vegetables. 
  • Trim fat from meat and skin from poultry (chicken, turkey, etc.) and fish.

How can you keep your baby safe from pesticides in your home or yard?

If you need pest control inside your home:

  • Use something other than chemicals, like mousetraps or sticky traps, instead of pesticides. Be careful not to set traps in places where children can get to them. 
  • Babyproof your home. Lock cleaning products, bug sprays, rat poison and other pesticides in cabinets out of your baby’s reach. Never put pesticides in a container that your baby may think is a food or drink. Keep your baby, pets and toys away from places where you’ve used pesticides. 
  • Put food, dishes and utensils away before using a pesticide. 
  • Clean up food and water that may attract pests.  Wipe up spills and clean up crumbs right away. Fix leaky water pipes. 
  • Read the instructions and warnings on product labels for all pesticides. If you have leftover pesticides, follow state and local rules for throwing them away.
  • Have someone else put the pesticide in your home. Ask him to follow the directions on the product label. After using the pesticide, open windows to air out your home and wash all surfaces where food is made.
  • If you use a pest-control service, ask about pesticides. The company representative can tell you about the pesticides used and any risks they may pose to your baby’s health. 

If you need pest control outside in your yard:

  • Treat pest problems in your yard or garden with something other than chemicals. If you do use pesticides, treat specific places affected by pests or weeds. Don’t spray your whole lawn or garden. Don’t spray pesticides outside on a rainy or windy day. They can blow or run into places, like swimming pools or vegetable gardens, where you don’t want them to be.
  • Read the instructions and warnings on product labels for all pesticides. If you have leftover pesticides, follow state and local rules for throwing them away.
  • Close all the windows in your home and turn off the air conditioning. This helps keep pesticides in the air from coming inside.
  • Wear rubber gloves when gardening to avoid touching pesticides. 
  • If you use a lawn service, ask about pesticides. The company representative can tell you about the pesticides used and any risks they may pose to your baby’s health. 

More information

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Last reviewed September 2014

See also: Pesticides and pregnancy

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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