A Parent's Quick Guide to Indoor Air Quality

May 4, 2023

As humans, we breathe constantly – about 22,000 times per day. You’re breathing right now as you read this … over and over again. It’s no secret that the quality of the air we breathe matters quite a bit.

With May being National Clean Air Month, it’s important to consider the quality of the air you and your children are breathing. Your home’s air is most important as it’s where you spend most of your time, where you sleep and where you care for your family. Plus, factor in that so many household items, everything from cleaning products to furniture to your baby’s mattress, now include off-gassing chemicals, and it’s clear that protecting your little one’s developing brain and body from harmful toxins in the air is more important than ever.

In fact, babies and toddlers are more susceptible to the risks of poor indoor air quality than you are as an adult. It can feel scary, but there’s a lot you can do to help keep your kiddos safe. Lullaby Earth is here to help!

What Is Indoor Air Quality?

Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) refers to the quality and health of the air inside of homes and buildings. This is often determined by considering the health, comfort and quality of life of those inhabiting these indoor areas. Building structures, like your home, essentially have their own biology!

There’s a lot that can impact the biology of your home, inlcuding the way it was built, the materials that were used, the climate it sits in, how old it is and more.

Health Risks Linked to Poor Indoor Air Quality

Child blowing their nose, experiencing side effects of poor indoor air qualityChild blowing their nose, experiencing side effects of poor indoor air quality

IAQ health risks can be difficult to pinpoint as they often mimic other concerns, like a cold or sinus infection. Many people do not consider that their environment may be making them sick until after they’ve exhausted all other potential causes and aren’t getting better. This is how chronic health conditions can develop – through repeated daily exposure to environmental toxins and a body that becomes overburdened. Symptoms linked to poor indoor air quality can present as:

  • Allergies
  • Sinus issues
  • Eye/throat irritation
  • Respiratory issues
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue

However, the long-term impacts of poor IAQ can be debilitating and fatal, often impacting the nervous system, brain and heart, and even resulting in cancer.

Children’s bodies are even more susceptible to becoming overburdened as they are still developing, have higher respiratory rates and are exposed to a disproportionate amount of toxins for their size. Plus, babies and toddlers put their hands and other objects in their mouths constantly! Particles from off-gassing chemicals can attach to these items and end up in your precious little one’s mouth.

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5 Common Threats to the IAQ in Your Home

The source of poor indoor air quality is never just one thing. Unfortunately, toxins are everywhere today, and pollutants can come in many forms. Common threats that may be harming your indoor air quality include:

1. Mold

Mold and mycotoxins, the toxic compounds that mold produces, pose a massive threat to indoor air quality. Mold can accumulate in the body when it is breathed in and impact every system, even colonizing in the body itself. Certain strains of mold, like toxic black mold (Stachybotrys), are deadly.

Mold is typically the result of water damage to your home’s structure or to the materials themselves that were used in building your home. Mold is often invisible but conducting a proper inspection and sampling your air or dust can help uncover whether you have a mold issue in your home.

Person putting on a mask to protect themself from mold sporesPerson putting on a mask to protect themself from mold spores

2. Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

VOCs are harmful chemicals that break down and “off-gas” into your indoor air. They can be found on nearly every new item you bring into your home. Some of the well-known offenders include cleaning products, cosmetics, paint and electronics. A great tip to mitigate VOCs is to allow new items to off-gas outside for a while before bringing them inside your home. However, many major VOC culprits, like mattresses and carpets, will off-gas for years to come.

3. Combustion Products

Where there is combustion, there are chemical reactions, right? So, it makes sense that you should take extra care when using any combustion products inside your home. Gas heaters, hookups, stoves and fireplaces can release deadly carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and other dangerous particles into the air.

4. Formaldehyde

This well-documented carcinogen can be found in many household items, from furniture to bedding to clothing … and, yes, kid and crib mattresses too (and yours for that matter!). This is largely because formaldehyde is a common ingredient in industrial glues and adhesives. It can also be found in the manufactured building materials used in homes.

Couch and throw pillows that may contain formaldehyde or fiberglassCouch and throw pillows that may contain formaldehyde or fiberglass

5. Fiberglass

Most people know fiberglass as the pink, cotton-candy-looking insulation in the attic. However, as people become more aware of the dangers of flame retardant chemicals, manufacturers have turned to fiberglass as a cheap alternative for fire protection. But, you get what you pay for. Fiberglass is NOT a healthy substance to have in furnishings like mattresses and upholstery.

Speaking of insulation, most people know that asbestos, a mineral fiber also commonly used in home insulation and as a fire-retardant, is dangerous. If you suspect asbestos in your home, contact a professional!

Pay Extra Attention to Your Little One’s Mattress

Harmful chemical flame retardants are used in the majority of mattresses – even for babies and children – and even many “healthier” mattresses. These toxic chemicals off-gas into the air and are breathed in by your little one while they sleep. Flame retardants have been linked to:

  • Neurological disorders
  • Endocrine system disruption
  • Decreased immunity
  • Cancer

Aside from flame retardants, most crib mattresses include polyurethane foam, formaldehyde, vinyl/PVC and a whole slew of chemicals you don’t want Baby breathing in.

Babies are especially vulnerable, which is why it is important to invest in a non-toxic mattress like Lullaby Earth’s. Lullaby Earth products are MADE SAFE® certified non-toxic, GREENGUARD® Gold certified for low chemical emissions and UL Formaldehyde Free validated. We never made use chemical flame retardants or other toxic materials that can compromise your indoor air quality and your child’s health.

Top Tips for Improving Indoor Air Quality

Toddler jumping on Mom's back and laughing in a fresh, clean homeToddler jumping on Mom's back and laughing in a fresh, clean home

If you suspect there’s an issue with the structure of your home that may be impacting your IAQ, it’s important to work with a qualified professional. The same can be said if you suspect mold. Working with a reputable remediation company to conduct proper testing may be necessary in order to improve your indoor air quality. The good news is there are also many simple ways you can improve your indoor air quality, too. For example:

  • Invest in air purifiers – Air purifiers effectively capture and trap many of the pollutants, allergens and irritants that may trigger symptoms.
  • Change the HVAC filters – Having your HVAC system regularly maintenanced and changing the filters ensures that dust and other airborne irritants get trapped instead of recirculated into your home.
  • Open the windows – Ventilation is crucial for indoor air quality! This keeps humidity levels low and reduces the risk of mold developing. Opening your windows for at least 15 minutes a day can help.
  • Keep things clean – A clean house is a healthy house – if you’re cleaning with non-toxic products that is. Making the switch to non-toxic household products and cleaning regularly can help reduce dust, mold spores, pet dander, allergens and pollutants from accumulating.

And, of course, shop non-toxic! The fewer harmful chemicals you bring into your home in the first place, the healthier your home will be.

Although May is National Clean Air Month, we think IAQ is something to be considered year-round. While some of this information may feel overwhelming, just keep breathing. You now have the knowledge to better control your indoor environment for improved air quality to keep you and your family safe and healthy!

Looking for tips on how to create a non-toxic nursuery for your little one? Check out out Non-toxic Nursery Guide! Or, get more tips on everyday non-toxic living here.