Infants and Indoor Air Pollution

"Our bodies are not meant to breathe

the pollutants found indoors"

For many new mothers, bringing a baby into the world can be an amazing, and yet terrifying, event.  It can be scary due to the overwhelming amount of things that can threaten a child’s life in their first 6 months. The reason for this is that during this period of time a baby is growing and maturing very quickly. One of these parts of the body that is growing very rapidly at this time is the lungs. If you are living in a home with poor indoor air quality and have an infant, it can be very damaging to your child’s health. Records of infant mortality rates in the United States around 2005 indicate that respiratory distress in newborns is the 7th most common cause

of death.


Poor indoor air quality as a result of Indoor Air Pollution has been rated one of the top five environmental dangers in regards to human health by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency). This is especially the case for individuals with comprised immune systems like that of the elderly and, of course, small children.  Poor Indoor Air Quality can be the result of several factors, often thanks to inadequate ventilation due to improper construction of buildings by making them air tight to achieve energy

efficiency combined with chemical contaminants, also known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These can be emitted from several common household materials, such as paint or carpeting, resulting in poor IAQ . Some of the VOC’s include carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, nitrogen dioxide and many others. With nitrogen dioxide for example, there have been studies conducted that have shown that exposure can cause bronchitis in asthmatic children. For developing lungs, the precursor to childhood asthma can be triggered by several factors, including poor indoor air quality. Finally, the biological contaminants that contribute to poor indoor air quality include: mold, bacteria, mildew, viruses and pollen. Moisture intrusion and stagnant water are the environments where these contaminants fester the easiest. All the above contaminants can cause poor IAQ, most of which cannot be detected by the naked eye.


Most people, especially parents, may remember the incident that took place in Cleveland, Ohio in November of 1994. It was during this time, that several infants were brought to Dr. Dorr Dearborn, suffering from Pulmonary Hemosiderosis, or bleeding of the lungs. This particular ailment, generally only happens with one out of a million children. However, in Cleveland Ohio, it was affecting 1 out of 1000 infants. Dr. Dearborn had seen 3 children in one day, suffering from bleeding of the lungs. It was when the 4th infant arrived with the same problem that the doctor felt it was necessary to contact the CDC (Center for Disease Control) and make them aware of the problem. When the representative of the CDC arrived, they came to the conclusion that the main suspect in why all these infants were suffering from bleeding of the lungs was black or toxic mold. The reason they suspected this was due to the geographical location of the children affected and the fact that every home with a child that had become sick contained large amounts of stachybotrys chartarum, or black mold, as it is more commonly known.


Since then, however, the CDC has stated that they cannot empirically show the connection between black mold and the bleeding of lungs in infants; they cannot state however, that it was not a factor.  Dr. Dearborn has written a rebuttal to the CDC’s findings in recent years, and still believes that black mold was the main reason why these infants suffered from bleeding of the lungs. Not only that, but Dr. Dearborn had also exhumed several infants that had died from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or SIDS during the same time period, and found that several of them had suffered from bleeding of the lungs as well. He then concluded that it was possible that these children had been ill due to exposure to black mold as well, and testing of their homes revealed that black mold was in fact present.


It is important to understand the effects that poor IAQ can have on an infant, especially because they are more susceptible to certain illnesses and contaminants at this time. In order to ensure the complete safety of your young child, you should take steps to remove contaminated materials or prevent them from existing in your home to begin with.


In the case of mold growth, the key is the existence of moisture. Ensuring that there is no water intrusion or high humidity in your home could be the difference between a healthy and unhealthy environment for your child. It is important to fix all existing leaks or gaps in insulation, and if you suspect there has been water damage, make sure to get an inspection done by a certified inspector. The inspector will be able to indicate whether mold growth exists in your home, and whether there are any other contaminants present that contribute to poor indoor air quality. If you do find that contaminated materials are present in your home, it is important to make sure that they are removed immediately and properly. As a new parent, removing such dangers from your home can be one less thing you need to worry about, allowing you to breathe easy knowing that your child’s safety is not in jeopardy.