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Effects of Air Pollution on Babies and Children

Effects of Air Pollution on Babies and Children

Air pollution can be harmful to adults, but it's even worse for children.  

  • Air pollution is one of the leading threats to a child's health, accounting for almost 1 in 10 deaths in children under five years of age.
  • Air pollution affects neurodevelopment, leading to lower cognitive performance and negatively affecting mental and motor development.
  • Air pollution is damaging children’s lung function, even at lower levels of exposures.

Parents have a lot to consider when it comes to raising healthy children. Between maintaining healthy diets, physical activity, ensuring the proper education, it’s no wonder that most parents don’t even think about how air pollution affects babies and children.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 93% of the world’s children under 15 years old (1.8 billion children) breathe polluted air that puts their health and development at risk.  Unfortunately, most people don’t even have this problem on their radar, leaving them unaware that they should be doing something about it.  There are many ways that air pollution can negatively impact babies and children, and we must do our best to protect them from it.


Problems at Birth

When considering how pollution affects children and babies, most don’t think about the ways that it can harm babies before they’re even born.  A report on the effects of air pollution on the health of children showed that the presence of air pollutants has been associated with adverse pregnancy outcomes.  These include premature birth, low birth weight, intrauterine growth retardation, and small size for their gestational age.  A baby’s health and wellbeing start in the womb, and the negative impact of exposure of the mother to air pollution is a real concern.


Sudden Infant Death Syndrome

While it may seem extreme, there is proof that air pollution can also increase a baby’s risk of mortality.  For example, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), something that all parents fear, has been associated with exposure to air pollutants.  While SIDS is still a pretty mysterious event and air pollution isn’t necessarily an official or only cause, ensuring that your baby has access to clean air can put your mind at ease.


Reduced Lung Growth

By the time children reach school age, you may think that their lungs are fully developed, but this is not the case.  Children are especially vulnerable to air pollution because their lungs are still growing, and they tend to be more active, causing them to breathe in more air.

In an article by the American Lung Association, a study was referenced where researchers tracked 1,759 children between the ages of 10 and 18 from 1993 to 2001.  In this study, the researchers found that those who grew up in areas with more air pollution had an increased risk of reduced lung growth.  Shockingly, the drop in lung growth in these children was similar to children who grew up in a home with parents who were smokers.


Poor Respiratory Health

Exposure to air pollutants is detrimental to the respiratory health of children.  The World Health Organization estimates that in 2016, 600,000 children died from acute lower respiratory infections that were caused by polluted air.  Air pollution is damaging to children’s lung function, even at lower levels of exposures.  If your child has asthma, their chances of struggling with poor respiratory health due to air pollution are even higher.

Unfortunately, air pollution is an everyday challenge for most people, whether they’re aware of it or not.  Our world is full of more airborne toxins than it ever has been, and we’re exposed to them daily.  However, we do have some control of the air that we breathe in our homes.  A high performance air purifier like Aspen that removes all allergens, smoke, and other ultrafine pollutants can provide your family with clean air and protect against the dangers of air pollution.

air purifier in nursery with crib


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