Air pollution

Air pollution can cause coughing, burning eyes, and tightness in the chest. For children, problems are likely to be worse if they have asthma.

Air pollution is made up of gases, droplets and particles that reduce the quality of the air. Both the city and the country can have air pollution.

Some causes of air pollution are cars, buses, airplanes, factories, mines, power plants, construction, dust and smoke. In cities, air pollution increases when the air is still, the sun is bright, and the temperature is warm.

What you can do to protect your child from air pollution

When local health agencies issue air pollution or smog alerts, keep your child indoors. If you must take your baby out on these days, do so early in the morning or after sunset.

If you know you live close to a source of air pollution or if your baby has a heart or lung problem (including asthma), ask your child’s health care provider how to protect him from air pollution.

Everything you buy has an effect on the environment. When you buy products that use less energy and last longer than others, you pollute the air less.

  • Buy Energy Star products, including cars, appliances and houses. They are environmentally friendly and have been approved by the Environmental Protection Agency. For more information, visit the Energy Star Web site.
  • Buy efficient cars and trucks that pollute as little as possible. The Environmental Protection Agency has a vehicle emissions guide.
  • Recycle paper, plastic, glass, cardboard and aluminum. Use recycled products.
  • Choose products that have less packaging and can be reused.
  • Reuse paper bags and boxes.
  • Use compact, energy-efficient fluorescent light bulbs. When handling the bulbs, try not to break them since they contain mercury.
  • Turn off appliances and lights when you leave a room.
  • When you’re cooking small meals, use the microwave.
  • Plant trees around your house. They provide shade in the summer. During the winter, after the leaves have fallen from the trees, more light can get into your house and help to keep it warm.
  • Properly dispose of paints, pesticides and solvents. (Examples of solvents are turpentine, paint thinners and grease removers.) Your local health department or environmental agency can tell you how to do this. Store these products in airtight containers.
  • Avoid using paint sprayers.
  • Keep air conditioning units, heaters, furnaces, wood stoves and fireplaces in good working order.
  • Use less heating and air conditioning. Turn the thermostat down in winter and up in summer.
  • Insulate your home, water heater and pipes.

For more information

Local newspapers and TV news programs usually provide information about air quality.

April 2008

Most common 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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