Indoor Air Pollution – How to Protect Your Children

Day and night, your children are breathing in toxins, both outside and in your home.  Most of us think of outside air when considering air pollution. But the EPA estimates that the level of indoor air pollution may be two to five times higher than the pollution level outdoors, and many children spend more than 90% of their time indoors. With today’s energy efficient homes, there is little ventilation to help indoor air quality.

Children breathe in and retain more air pollution per unit of body weight than adults. Polluted air has a greater impact on children because their lungs and systems of elimination are still developing. When children’s bodies becomes overloaded, they cannot deal with more toxins. They may begin to have adverse reactions to certain exposures such as new carpet, paint, cleaning materials, mattress and furniture off-gassing, dust, molds or pollen. Even minor exposures can make a toxic overloaded child very ill. It’s estimated that more than 40 million people now have some form of environmental illness due to allergic or toxic reactions to various substances in their environments.

Indoor air pollution can cause symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, watery eyes, nasal congestion, headaches, fatigue, dizziness, and difficulty breathing. Allergens, tobacco smoke or chemical exposure can trigger asthma symptoms or make existing symptoms worse. Environmental illness may include a long list of other perplexing problems that are difficult to pinpoint.

Particles or gases are being released into the air throughout your home from many different sources. But the room in which your children sleep is probably the most important. Sleep is the time for their bodies to regenerate. When your children go to sleep at night, their bodies go into deep repair mode, and the immune system attempts to get rid of the impurities. It’s difficult to detoxify if there is the additional burden of toxins in the air in the bedroom. How much time do your children spend in the bedroom? In addition to night-time sleeping, many children are spending a lot of time playing or napping in their bedrooms during the day.

First, it’s crucial for babies and children to sleep on an organic mattress that does not off-gas. It’s imperative to replace all mattresses that contain fire retardants, vinyl, polyurethane foam and other toxic materials.  Additionally, most bed frames, cribs, cradles, bassinets, changing tables, dressers, cabinets and bookcases are made from composite or pressed wood products that emit formaldehyde or contain varnishes or paints that also emit toxins. If possible, replace this furniture with solid wood with natural finishes. Carpet is another big toxic emitter that can release pollutants more or less continuously. Toxins from cleaning products, personal care products, building materials, and paints can all get into the air.  Any mold, dust-mites, or animal dander present in the bedroom can also be a big problem for children.

To reduce allergens and toxins in your child’s bedroom:

  • Purchase a HEPA room air purifier that reduces allergens, odors, gases and chemicals
  • Encase pillows, mattresses and box springs with non-toxic 100% organic cotton dust-mite proof covers
  • Consider buying a non-toxic organic kids mattress
  • Reduce home humidity to under 50 percent to control mold growth
  • Fix plumbing, roof and other water leaks promptly, and safely remove all mold throughout the house
  • Vacuum twice a week with a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter (more frequently if you have pets)
  • Vacuum upholstered furniture, drapes and mattresses on a regular basis
  • Clean hard surfaces with a damp cloth and don’t use toxic cleaners
  • Keep allergy-causing pets out of the bedroom or wash pets every week to reduce exposure to dander
  • Wash bedding weekly in hot water
  • Wash stuffed animals regularly
  • Remove carpet, if possible, and use natural, non-toxic rugs that you can wash regularly
  • Keep tobacco smoke out of the home
  • Avoid composite or particle board furniture and try to buy real wood whenever possible.
  • If you buy composite wood products, let them off-gas outside for several days or weeks before bringing them indoors
  • Ventilate rooms thoroughly after bringing new furniture inside. Open windows daily to improve indoor air quality.
  • Common houseplants such as bamboo palms and spider plants may help to purify the air

All these things are necessary and helpful, but to really make a big difference in indoor air pollution, a HEPA room air purifier is needed.

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