How can we protect our children from air pollution at home?

Air pollution is the cause of almost 7 million deaths worldwide every year and our children are amongst the most vulnerable groups.


Why are children so affected?


  • Up to the age of 12, children breathe 2-3 times the amount the average adult does in a minute. This means the more pollutants there are in the air, the more children will be affected compared to adults

  • Children are closer to ground level where some pollutant concentrations are at their strongest

  • Foetuses are sensitive to environmental factors so exposure to high levels of air pollution in early developmental stages can impact a child's health in later life

Respiratory problems are the most common disorders linked to air pollution but, worryingly, new research is suggesting that exposure to hazardous air pollution can also affect the brain.


Living near a busy road or industrial site is the most obvious source of pollution but there are other sources you may not be aware of:

  • Wood burning has been identified as the single biggest cause of particle pollution and can generate up to 3 times more pollution than from traffic. If you burn wood at home or your neighbours do, please be aware of the impact this will have on your health and the health of your family. Even with windows closed, outdoor pollutants will find a way into neighbouring properties

  • Moisture and mould is one of the biggest causes of wheezing amongst babies and infants, with children living in damp homes far more likely to experience respiratory problems

  • The VOCs (volatile organic compounds) released by redecorating and refurbishing a home are also key culprits. It is not just paint - carpets, flooring, new furniture and furnishing (curtains, cushions) can off-gas, sometimes up to 2 years

  • You should also keep your eye on the household products you’re using. Whilst not as harmful to mothers who work outside the home, stay-at-home mums that regularly use nail polish and hairspray increase the risk of preterm births. Cleaning products, candles, air fresheners, solvents can all release chemicals in the air which your children will inhale at a faster pace than you

  • High levels of CO2 can cause lack of concentration and drowsiness. Studies have shown improved test scores when CO2 is within normal range

Now you know how harmful indoor air pollution can be to infants, how can you keep your children safe when at home?


VENTILATION

  • Studies show that mums who open their windows for even half of the day have no increased risk of preterm or low weight birth

  • Opening the windows will also help clear the air of formaldehyde and other VOCs found in new furniture and paint

  • The only way to clear the air of excess CO2 is to open the windows

  • Ventilation is also a proven strategy in reducing the risk of indoor COVID transmissions

MONITOR THE AIR

If you don’t know the air you are breathing, how will you know you have a problem?

  • Maintaining a relative humidity of 40-60 reduces the chances of mould and airborne viruses

  • CO2 levels of less than 800 will create a healthier environment for your family

  • Monitoring your TVOC (Total VOCs) levels will alert you when to open the window or switch on your air purifier

  • Monitoring your particulate levels will alert you when to open the window or switch on your air purifier. You may need to do both if you are worried about outdoor pollution. Although air purifiers work better in a closed environment, our tests show they will still work with windows open but at around 30% less capacity


REDUCE THE AMOUNT OF CHEMICALS IN THE HOME

  • Look at your cleaning solutions to see where you can make changes. If cost is an issue, homemade products work really well

  • Avoid candles and air fresheners – running an air purifier will clean the air naturally. If you have a fresh air kitchen extractor and bathroom extractor, make sure to use these regularly

  • Always have the windows open when using any kind of solvents – preferably, do this outside


USE AN AIR PURIFIER TO CLEAN THE AIR

  • HEPA filters will clean airborne particles but you will need a carbon filter to clean chemicals in the air

  • A purifier doesn’t need to be left on when no-one is at home. A powerful purifier such as the Sqair will clean a 40m2 room in 20 mins on high. After this, you can turn it down to extend the life of your filter

  • Filters will need to be changed regularly to ensure a healthy clean air future

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