Breathe Easy, Baby: 5 Essentials for Nursery IAQ

Lullaby 10/22/2015

Did you know that indoor air is typically 2-5 times more polluted than the air outside (even in urban areas)? Or that a few years ago, Greenguard Environmental Institute and Good Morning America set up a nursery with a new crib, changing table, rocker and decor and then tested the air to see what kind of indoor air pollution a new baby might be exposed to and they discovered the air in their nursery contained 300 different chemicals—compared to just two right outside the window?! October is National Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Month, so today we're sharing 5 essentials for nursery IAQ. Help your baby breathe easy and protect the health of your family!

1. Grow indoor plants. Plants are nature’s air filters. NASA’s done studies to find out which ones work best to use in the space station, and they found the following list of plants absorb common contaminants like benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene.

• Hedera helix – English ivy
• Chlorophytum comosum 
spider plant
• Epipiremnum aureum 
golden pothos
• Spathiphyllum `Mauna Loa’ – peace lily
• Aglaonema modestum – Chinese evergreen
• Chamaedorea sefritzii  – bamboo or reed palm
• Sansevieria trifasciata – snake plant
• Philodendron scandens `oxycardium’  – heartleaf philodendron
• Philodendron selloum  – selloum philodendron
• Philodendron domesticum – elephant ear philodendron
• Dracaena marginata  – red-edged dracaena
• Dracaena fragrans `Massangeana’  – cornstalk dracaena
• Dracaena deremensis `Janet Craig’  – Janet Craig dracaena
• Dracaena deremensis `Warneckii’ –  Warneck dracaena
• Ficus benjamina – weeping fig

(Note: Keep poisonous plants out of reach from children and pets.)

2. Crack a window. Even on cold days, crack a window open. Even just a few minutes can have a significant impact on your indoor air. Let the bad air out and better air in.

3. Monitor your air. Most people know to install smoke detectors throughout the home, but carbon dioxide and radon detectors are just as important. Carbon dioxide poisoning from leaking appliances can be fatal. Radon, a natural gas that can seep in through basements and foundations, is the second leading cause of lung cancer. Both gases are colorless and odorless, so having detectors is the only way to know if they’re in your air.

4. Choose safer products. Since the main source of pollution in your home is from the products you bring in to it, choosing safer products is the most important thing you can do to protect your indoor air. Clearly you can’t change all of your shopping habits at once, so start where it matters most: the nursery.

5. Buy an air purifier. Here’s advice from Consumer Reports:

Better air purifiers do especially well at filtering pollutant particles such as dust, tobacco smoke, and pollen. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and other types of gaseous pollutants, however, are another matter. Some portable models with carbon pre-filters are claimed to filter VOCs, known respiratory irritants that arise from adhesives, paints, and cleaning products. But the Environmental Protection Agency warns that such filters are specific to certain gaseous pollutants, not for others, and that no air purifiers are expected to remove all gaseous pollutants found in the typical home. Carbon filters also must be replaced often, typically every 3-6 months, or they stop working–and can even, when full, release trapped pollutants back into the air. The safer course: Heed strict product-label warnings such as “use only in well-ventilated spaces.”

Air-purifier models with an electrostatic precipitator remove pollutant particles by charging them as they pass through and collecting them on an oppositely charged metal plate or filter. In the process, they produce some ozone as a byproduct. You’ll also find dedicated ozone generators, which produce relatively large amounts of this gas by design. While ozone in the upper atmosphere protects us from the sun’s ultraviolet rays, ground-level ozone is an irritant that can worsen asthma and compromise your ability to fight respiratory infections. We believe that air purifiers that emit even small amounts of ozone are a poor choice if someone in your household has pulmonary problems or allergy symptoms. We also suggest that you avoid dedicated ozone generators entirely, given their high ozone emissions.

How to choose

  • If you want a purifier and don’t have a forced-air system, consider a large portable. In addition to removing more particles at high speeds, the better large models still did well at lower, quieter speeds.
  • Weigh features carefully. Most air purifiers have an indicator that tells you when first to clean or replace the filter to maintain efficiency. But some indicators turn on based on length of time the unit has been running, not how dirty the filter is. Skip odor-removal features. In past tests it took up to an hour for them to make a difference–when they did anything at all.
  • And the certifications on the box? All tell how well a model filters particles at its highest speed. The certifications all also allow up to 50 parts per billion of ozone, a respiratory irritant. We advise against using models that produce any ozone, even if they are effective cleaners.
Check an air purifier’s efficiency rating

If you still want one, use this air-purifier guide to choose. The Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers certifies most room models as part of a voluntary program that includes appropriate room size and maximum clean-air delivery rate (CADR), a measure of cleaning speed. We judge a CADR above 350 to be excellent and below 100 to be poor. Choose a model designed for an area larger than yours for better cleaning at a lower, quieter speed. Many whole-house filters list a minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV), developed by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers. The top performers in our tests typically had a MERV higher than 10.

For more tips, check out Healthy Child Healthy World's e-book, "Easy Steps for a Healthy & Safe Nursery."


The information provided on this site is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice or recommendations. Please consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding the issues raised here.