A little fresh air is good for your baby! But if your baby breathes in air pollution, he may be more likely to have some health problems. Air pollution is made up of gases, droplets and particles that make the quality of the air worse. Car emissions, smoke, dust and chemicals from factories can lead to air pollution.
But don’t think you have to keep your baby inside all the time. There are things you can do to help keep your baby safe from air pollution.
How can air pollution affect your baby’s health?
Air pollution can cause coughing, burning eyes and tightness in the chest. These problems can be worse for babies and children with asthma. Asthma is a health condition that affects the airways and can cause breathing problems.
What causes air pollution?
Air pollution can come from these sources:
- Cars, buses, airplanes, trucks and trains
- Factories, power plants and dry cleaners
Both the city and the country can have air pollution. In cities, air pollution gets worse when the air is still, the sun is bright and the temperature is warm. A gas called ozone is a major part of air pollution in cities. When ozone forms air pollution, it’s also called smog.
How can you keep your baby safe from air pollution?
If you know you live close to a source of air pollution, or your baby has a heart or lung problem (like asthma), ask his health care provider how to keep him safe from air pollution. When local health agencies issue air pollution or smog alerts, limit your baby’s time outdoors or keep your baby indoors. On these days it’s best to take your baby out early in the morning or after sunset. Visit airnow.gov to check how clean or polluted your air is.
What can you do to limit air pollution?
Everything you buy or use has an effect on the environment. When you buy products that use less energy and last longer than others, you pollute the air less.
Tips for buying products
- Buy Energy Star products, like energy-efficient lighting and appliances. The Environmental Protection Agency (also called EPA) approves these products because they help protect the environment. For more information, visit the Energy Star website.
- Buy efficient cars and trucks that pollute as little as possible. The EPA has a vehicle emissions guide.
- Choose products that have less packaging and can be reused.
- Shop with a canvas bag instead of using paper and plastic bags.
- Buy rechargeable batteries for devices you use often.
Around the house
- Recycle paper, plastic, glass, cardboard and aluminum.
- Use recycled products and reuse paper bags and boxes.
- Use Energy Star-certified LED lights. LED stands for light–emitting diodes. These lights use at least 75 percent less energy than incandescent lighting.
- 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.
Last reviewed December 2013
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.