Maintaining good indoor air quality in the home is crucial for everyone, but if you have (or are expecting) a baby, reducing indoor air pollution in the nursery is more important than ever. Pollutants and toxins in the air can have significant effects on a baby’s development, and may affect the lungs, immune system and brain. Keeping the baby’s room filled with clean, pollutant-free air is important to help your baby grow up healthy.
There are several steps to take that will improve the air quality in the nursery, but one of the most effective is the use of an air purifier. Portable air purifiers are great at improving the air quality in one specific room in the house, so they are ideal for making sure the room your baby sleeps in has good indoor air quality. This article will take you through the different types of indoor air pollution to watch out for in your baby’s room, different ways to improve the air quality and what types of air purifiers are best for the nursery (and which ones to avoid completely).
Why do I need an air purifier in my baby’s room?
Indoor air pollution has a negative effect on everyone, but it can cause more harm to elderly people, people with compromised immune systems and infants. The damage that pollutants in the air causes to infants is especially bad because it may interfere with their development, and may result in long-term problems. Study after study has found that contaminants in the air may be connected to developmental problems.
A review of multiple studies published in 2006 in the journal Pediatrics & Child Health found that ambient air pollution led to an increase in infant mortality, respiratory problems, school absenteeism and immune system problems. Good air quality may be important even before birth, as contaminated air was found to be connected to difficulties during pregnancy and a higher rate of birth defects .
Air pollutants including tobacco smoke, formaldehyde gas emitted by carpets or furniture, cleaning products, mold, animals dander and dust mites might be present in your house. The World Health Organization reports that poor air quality impacts neurodevelopment, impacting cognitive test scores and increasing rates of behavioral disorders.
One particular indoor air pollutant is especially bad for baby’s room: ozone. Exposure to ozone had significant effects on lung development and could lead to long-term respiratory problems (Ihorst et al., 2004). This is a cause for concern because certain types of air purifiers actually emit ozone. You will read more about them in more detail in a moment.
You can control many aspects of the air quality in your baby’s room, but the presence of some pollutants in the air is unavoidable. That is why an air purifier is such an important tool, because it can help remove the pollutants that you cannot control.
Should I use a humidifier in the nursery?
Humidifiers can have positive health effects, keeping your skin, noses and throat from getting too dry during the winter or in dry climates. However, if used improperly they can promote excessive moisture that will lead to mold growth. Mold and mold spores in your baby’s room are a pollutant, and something you want to avoid.
If the air is very dry in your home and you think a humidifier is necessary in the nursery, you may want to use a “cool mist” evaporative humidifier. An ultrasonic humidifier can propel aerosolized mineral dust (from the mineral content in tap water) into the air, which can be harmful if inhaled. Humidifiers that boil water into steam are a bad idea for a baby’s room, since an accidental spill could cause severe burns.
It is important to wipe down a humidifier regularly and allow it to dry out once a day. This will prevent the formation of mold in the humidifier. A humidifier that is sending mold spores into the air in your baby’s room is doing more harm than good.
What type of air purifier should I choose for the nursery?
The best air purifier for a baby’s room is safe while effectively removing pollutants from the air. It should also be relatively quiet. While white noise is useful for helping babies sleep, studies have found that white noise at excessive volumes may damage a child’s hearing and auditory development and even slow auditory development (Hugh et al., 2014). A little fan noise may be fine. You may even consider the white noise of an air purifier an additional benefit, but you may want to avoid an excessively loud air purifier.
An air purifier with a HEPA filter is designed to remove particulate matter from the air, including some elements of tobacco smoke, pet dander, dust mites and mold spores. However, a HEPA filter needs to be changed regularly to maintain its effectiveness. If the filter becomes damp, it could grow mold and end up releasing mold spores instead of filtering them out. HEPA filters also are not able to remove gaseous pollutants from the air, such as some of the toxins in tobacco smoke, formaldehyde or toxins that result combustion from wood stoves or gas appliances.
Carbon filters are designed to remove gaseous pollutants, and as a side effect, some of the unpleasant odors in a baby’s room. However, carbon filters have the potential to off-gas, or release trapped chemicals back into the air if environmental conditions change—for example, if the humidity or temperature changes, or if you simply open a window. They also become saturated quickly, making them ineffective unless replaced frequently.
Ionizing air purifiers and UV air purifiers can emit ozone as a side effect. Ozone is a toxin that can affect the lungs of healthy adults. It is not something you want in the air of your baby’s room. Ozone emitters are air purifiers that intentionally produce ozone. The EPA recommends avoiding these.
The Molekule PECO air purifier contains a new technology that is entirely different from those above. It was developed by a father to help his son who struggled from severe childhood asthma and for whom traditional filters like HEPA filters did not make a large enough difference. Instead of simply trapping pollutants, PECO technology can destroy pollutants like allergens and harmful airborne chemicals that can be found inside a bedroom or nursery.
An independent laboratory has tested and verified that the Molekule device does not produce harmful ozone. When in silent mode, the unit has a noise level of 30 dB, which can be described as a whispered conversation.
Tips for keeping baby’s room safe and clean
Controlling pollutant sources is a vital first step in keeping your baby’s room clean.
- Do not smoke in the house. Tobacco smoke is, to be blunt, incredibly harmful to infants. Even smoke on your clothes or hair after smoking elsewhere has been found to be harmful to babies. Keep smoke out of your house.
- Clean surfaces with a damp cloth and vacuum regularly. This will remove many pollutant particles that have settled out of the air, preventing them from being stirred up into the air again.
- Be careful with new carpeting or furniture. New items may off-gas toxins such as formaldehyde. Let them air out for a few weeks in a garage if possible.
- Do not allow mold to form. Clean up spills and keep humidity levels from getting too high. This will prevent the formation of mold and mold spores.
Tips for maximizing the effectiveness of your nursery air purifier
- Block the blue light. Some air purifiers emit a blue light, or a power light that is on whenever the unit is operating. Blue light can disrupt sleep cycles, so keep it out of the baby’s line of sight or block the light with piece of tape.
- Keep it stable. Air purifiers can be heavy. Make sure an air purifier in a baby’s room is somewhere where it will not fall over or off of something and cause an injury.
- Keep it on the floor. An air purifier cleans the air in the entire room where it has been placed, but it is mostly effective in its immediate area. Keep it on the floor, where a crawling baby encounters more dust and other pollutants. And keep it close to the crib, where the baby spends many hours sleeping, to keep the air your baby is breathing as clean as possible.
An air purifier is an excellent idea for your baby’s health. Choosing the right type of air purifier for your nursery, and using it safely, can have a significant positive impact on your baby’s development.