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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 are chemicals that are used to kill or control things like, pests, rodents, molds or weeds. Pesticides also can cause health problems in babies. You can’t avoid all pesticides, but there are things you can do to limit your baby’s contact with them.

Where can pesticides be found?

Pesticides may be found in:

  • Air
  • Bug sprays
  • Cleaning products, like bleach
  • Food
  • Lawn and garden products, like weed killers
  • Pet products, like flea and tick shampoos
  • Rodent poisons, like mouse bait
  • Water

Babies come in contact with pesticides in everyday life. Some farmers spray pesticides on vegetables and fruits to protect them from insects. The grass in public spaces, like parks, may be treated with pesticides. And many people use pesticides, like bug sprays and mouse bait, in or around the home when they have a pest problem. 

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 studies show coming in contact with pesticides 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 toxic if your baby drinks them or eats them. She also can get poisoned if she breathes in large amounts of pesticides from the air or if her body absorbs a large amount of pesticides through her skin. If you think your baby has pesticide poisoning, call emergency medical service (911) or the Poison Control Center at (800) 222-1222. 

What are signs or symptoms of pesticide poisoning? 

Signs or symptoms may include:

  • Belly pain
  • Bleeding in the nose or gums
  • Cough or trouble breathing
  • Diarrhea
  • Feeling dizzy
  • Headache
  • Nausea or throwing up
  • Seizures

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

Here’s what you can do:

  • Feed your baby organic foods. These are foods that are grown or made without synthetic (man-made) pesticides.
  • Buy fresh fruits and vegetables that are in season. They usually have less pesticides on them. 
  • Wash and scrub all fresh fruits and vegetables under running water. This helps remove traces of chemicals.
  • Peel fruits and veggies, throw away outer leaves of leafy vegetables, and trim fat from meats and skin from poultry and fish. Pesticides can collect on these places. 

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

Here’s what you can do:

  • Babyproof your home. Lock cleaning products, bug sprays, rat poison and other pesticides in cabinet 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, her toys and pets away from places you’ve used pesticides. Never place ant, roach, mice or rat bait where your baby can get to it. 
  • Clean up food and water that might attract pests.  Wipe up spills and clean up crumbs right away. Fix leaky water pipes. 
  • Treat pest problems in your yard or garden using methods that don’t involve chemicals. If you do use pesticides, you usually can treat the specific places affected by pests or weed, without spraying the whole lawn or garden.
  • If you use a pesticide at home, read the label instructions and warnings. Don’t spray outside on a rainy or windy day. Pesticides can blow or run into the swimming pool or the vegetable garden. If you have leftover pesticides, follow state and local rules for throwing them away.
  • If you use a pest-control service or a lawn service, ask about the pesticides they use. The company should tell you about the pesticides they use and any risks these chemicals may pose to your baby’s health. 

More information

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

See also: Babyproofing, Organic foods

Last reviewed April 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.

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