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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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Mold

Mold is a group of tiny fungi that often looks like fuzzy spots of different colors, like green and gray. Mold spreads through very small spores that float through the air.

Some mold grows outdoors and helps break down dead matter, like fallen leaves or dead trees. But if mold grows indoors, it may cause health problems for your baby.

How can mold affect your baby’s health?

Mold affects some babies more than others. Babies who live in places with a lot of mold are more likely than other babies to have allergies, asthma and other health problems. Asthma is a health condition that affects the airways and can cause breathing problems.

Breathing in mold spores or touching mold can cause:

  • Stuffy or runny nose
  • Sore throat 
  • Sneezing 
  • Coughing 
  • Red or itchy eyes 
  • Skin rash
  • Headaches
  • Wheezing

Where can mold be found in the home?

Mold can grow anywhere, but it grows best in places that are warm, damp and humid. It often grows in these places:

  • Bathrooms
  • Kitchens 
  • Basements 
  • Air conditioners and humidifiers
  • Trash cans
  • Bed mattresses
  • Carpets

How can you keep your baby safe from mold?

The best way to control mold growth is to control moisture. It’s impossible to prevent all mold growth, but doing these things can help keep your baby safe:

  • Fix plumbing leaks and other water problems as soon as possible. Clean and dry your home within 24 to 48 hours after flooding. Remove and replace carpets, fabrics and upholstery that can’t be dried quickly.
  • Make sure your home gets good air flow, especially in bathrooms, laundry areas and cooking areas. In the kitchen and bathroom, use exhaust fans or open a window to help keep the air dry. Be sure the clothes dryer vents outside the house. 
  • If you see moisture collecting on windows, walls or pipes, dry it quickly. This can be a sign of high humidity. Open a window in the room to help make it less humid. Use an air conditioner or a dehumidifier during humid months and in damp spaces, like basements. 
  • Clean and repair roof gutters often and make sure the ground slopes away from your home’s foundation. Water shouldn’t enter or collect around the foundation. 
  • Before painting or caulking, clean and dry moldy areas. Paint applied to moldy surfaces may peel.

How can you clean and control mold?

You don’t need to know the type of mold before you clean it. If you can see or smell mold, clean it. If the moldy area is small (a patch less than a 3 feet by 3 feet), you can probably clean it up yourself. If the moldy area is larger, you may want to hire an experienced contractor to clean it.

To clean mold from hard surfaces (like walls and window frames), wear gloves and use any of these:

  • Soap and water
  • A bleach solution. To make a bleach solution, add no more than 1 cup of bleach per 1 gallon of water. Don’t mix bleach with ammonia or other household cleaners.
  • Cleaning products that kill mold. You can buy these at hardware and grocery stores.

Should you have your home tested or sampled for mold?

If you can see mold growth, testing or sampling probably aren’t needed. Since mold affects people differently, sampling and testing can’t predict the health risk for you and your children. Also, testing can be expensive. The best thing to do is to clean mold and prevent future growth. If you do decide to test or sample, be sure to use experienced professionals who are skilled in understanding the results.

More information

Environmental Protection Agency

Last reviewed December 2013

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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