That inexpensive furniture seems like a great idea— but not so much if it’s been produced with chemicals that cause throat irritation, headaches, and fatigue. Indoor air pollutants can trigger asthma and allergy symptoms; affect sex hormones, thyroid function, and cognition; damage organs, developing brains, and the nervous system; and cause cancer.
The average person spends 90 percent of their time indoors, and an infant can take in twice the air of an adult. Studies also show that fetuses can be affected when their pregnant mothers are exposed to chemicals.
Children develop their lung function up until young adulthood, when it peaks, explains David Morris, chief of the Division of Allergy and Immunology at Dayton Children’s Hospital. Shielding kids from indoor air pollutants helps to maximize their lung function and keep their respiratory system healthy, allowing them to breathe better into adulthood.
Let’s clear the air
Take steps to remove common air pollutants like radon (the second leading cause of lung cancer after cigarette smoke), carbon monoxide, cigarette smoke, pesticides, cleaners, and environmental irritants (especially mold). A quick online search will yield sources, symptoms, and elimination procedures. A clean home will reduce allergens and the need for pesticides. Use“green”products whenever possible. Use a cleaner only as strong as you need for the job. Ventilate your home and avoid air fresheners.
Two categories often overlooked are:
- Particulate matter, such as construction debris and burnt material from fireplaces, appliances, or cooking. Be sure to clean surfaces and ventilate. Avoid disturbing lead paint and asbestos building materials. Consider a room air purifier.
- Plastics, VOCs, PVCs, formaldehyde, phthalates, flame-retardants, etc.: To minimize chemical outgassing from new products, paints, and building materials, look for low-emission or “green” products. Avoid new furniture with glue and particle-board; opt for antiques. Consider hardwood or natural linoleum flooring over carpet. Avoid flame-retardant clothing and upholstery. Look for natural toys and untreated cottons and wools. Let products air out before you bring them into the home. Do your best to complete your nursery one month before delivery.
Morris suggests controlling what you can. The sum total of your small efforts can make a big difference in your child’s health.