Do you live in a place that’s known for clean air? If not, you could inadvertently be hurting your infant. There are enough factors to worry about that you actually can control when it comes to a new baby, much less things like pollution that you can’t. Unfortunately, aside from picking up and moving somewhere else, there isn’t a lot you can do to compensate for bad air quality in your location.

Why do we need to care about the air quality for children in particular? To clarify, it’s not good for anyone to breathe in smog and other pollutants every day, but it’s exceptionally dangerous for kids because they aren’t fully developed yet. Until children’s immune systems and lungs have finished developing, early exposure to air pollution can lead to a host of ugly problems. 

Here are a few examples. In young immune systems and lungs, air pollution actually contributes to infant mortality. That means living in an area with poor air quality leads to higher-than-usual rates of death among infants. In children who aren’t killed by air pollution, it can lead to severe asthma and atopy, acute bronchitis, chronic coughs, and a number of other conditions. These problems don’t go away just because you got around to moving later on. Early exposure could very well mean permanent damage.

There’s growing evidence that air pollution has serious effects on young children, but it’s perhaps too early to tell whether all of these effects are truly causal. In my opinion, it shouldn’t make much of a difference. By now, there is plenty of proof that air pollution is harmful not just to babies, but everyone. The difference location makes on your health is staggering when you think of how much pollution you could be breathing in over the course of your life just by living in a harmful location.

As for what you can do about it, that’s obviously a challenge. Generally, kids that spend more time outside and near traffic or power plants are particularly susceptible. Even within a city that’s infamous for its smog, you can take steps to keep your home clean and clear. I understand that it can be impractical for people in some professions to choose where they live based on pollution levels, but whenever possible, you should try to do it. It’ll benefit both you and your kids.

Source:  Schwartz, J. (April 1, 2004). Air Pollution and Children's Health. In American Academy of Pediatrics.

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