Ever stop to think about how much time your child spends inside? Most tots under the age of 24 months spend about 90 percent of their time indoors, where research shows the air can be two to five times more contaminated than it is outdoors, says Alan Greene, MD, a pediatrician with a special interest in children’s environmental health and the author of Raising Baby Green.
Dirt accumulates indoors for a few reasons: Black carbon from street traffic can seep inside and get trapped, making it difficult for kids to breathe, says New York’s Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health (CCCEH). What’s more, tiny airborne particles known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) originating indoors also can be very dangerous to a child’s health, upping the risk of cancer and asthma. Then there are the toxins being released into the air from sources like building materials, household furnishings and cleaning products. Here’s three ways to make your indoor air healthier.
Open a window As long as the outside air quality is good (check it at airnow.gov), ventilation can help. When weather permits, open a window in your child’s room (or wherever she spends a lot of time), Greene suggests. Running window, attic, kitchen and bathroom fans that exhaust outdoors also can help send indoor contaminants packing.
Put a stop to PAHs When cooking, always use a stove fan and be sure not to burn, char or blacken food. Skip the scented candles and incense; instead, use natural herbs and essential oils to freshen the air. Frequently wet-mopping floors and vacuuming carpets (preferably using a vacuum with a HEPA filter) can help eliminate PAHs that can attach to dust.
Kick the habit Never light up a cigarette (or allow anyone else to!) inside your house or anywhere near your child. And remember that third-hand smoke can cling to your hair and clothes, so it’s really best not to puff at all.
By Stacy Whitman