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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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Secondhand smoke and your baby

Secondhand smoke is smoke you breathe in from someone else’s cigarette, cigar or pipe. It contains more than 250 harmful chemicals; at least 69 of these can cause cancer. Being around secondhand smoke can cause serious health problems for your baby.  

About 1 out of every 3 children in the United States lives in a home where someone smokes regularly. The younger the child, the more likely he is to have health problems caused by secondhand smoke.

What health problems can secondhand smoke cause for your baby?

Children exposed to secondhand smoke are more likely than other children to have these conditions:

  • Ear infections, colds, pneumonia, bronchitis, severe asthma and sore throat
  • Headache and dizziness
  • Nausea (feeling sick to your stomach)
  • Low energy
  • Fussiness
  • Sudden infant death syndrome (also called SIDS). This is the unexplained death of a baby younger than 1 year old.

How can you help protect your baby from secondhand smoke?

  • If you or someone in your home smokes, quit. If you need help to quit, tell your health care provider. Or visit
  • Ask others not to smoke around your baby.
  • Don’t let anyone smoke in your home or your car, especially when your baby is there. Get rid of ashtrays; they may can encourage people to smoke. 
  • Don’t take your baby to places, like restaurants or other people’s homes, where people may be smoking.
  • When choosing a babysitter, make sure she doesn’t smoke. 

What is thirdhand smoke?

Thirdhand smoke is what’s left behind from tobacco and tobacco smoke. It can include lead, arsenic and carbon monoxide. It’s what you smell on things like clothes, furniture, carpet, walls and hair that’s been in or around smoke. It’s why you can tell that someone smokes by the smell of his clothes, home or car. Thirdhand smoke is why opening a window or smoking in another room isn’t enough to protect your baby.

Thirdhand smoke can cause health problems for your baby, including asthma and other breathing problems, learning disorders and cancer.

For more information

The American Academy of Pediatrics

Last reviewed September 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.

Have questions?