A baby sleeping in a crib.
A baby sleeping in a crib.
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Selecting an air purifier for the nursery

The most important addition to a newborn baby’s room probably isn’t a crib, changing table, or baby bedding. It’s clean air. Learn why.

The most important addition to a newborn baby’s room probably isn’t a crib, changing table, baby bedding, monitors, soft lighting or even blankets that match the wallpaper. 

This is because breathing is probably the most critical process for human life. A person can go weeks without eating and days without water. But how long can a person hold their breath? That makes the 25,000 breaths the average person takes everyday especially critical to human survival. And babies’ breaths are even more critical as every breath affects their lung development.

Health-conscious parents realize that selecting the right air purifier for the baby’s room is probably the most important investment they can make in the newborn’s room – at least to protect their baby’s health. 

Bacteria, viruses, mold, pet dander and air pollution all help make the air in a nursery less than fit to breathe. Many air purifiers look nice and even come in nursery-room colors but don’t thoroughly clean the air. And putting an ionizing or ozone-generating air purifier in the baby’s room can make matters even worse.

What does the research say about clean air for my baby?

Study after study demonstrates that babies and children are especially vulnerable to air pollution:

  • In 2004, a groundbreaking study of nearly 1,800 children published in The New England Journal of Medicine found that air pollution, including common pollutants like PM2.5 and nitrogen dioxide, can impair lung development from a young age, leading to a smaller lung size and decreased lung capacity for the rest of your child’s life.1 
  • In late 2009, researchers at the University of Washington reported in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine that infants exposed to air pollution are at an elevated risk of developing bronchiolitis.2 
  • A Canadian study reported in the journal Epidemiology in 2010 that babies in areas with moderate air pollution have a higher risk of developing middle-ear infections.3 Recent studies confirm this finding – a 2018 study in the Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology looked at over 60,000 babies born between 2001 and 2008, suggesting that even short-term exposure to PM2.5 substantially increased a child’s risk of middle-ear infections as well as airway blockages.4
  • A 2017 study published in JAMA Pediatrics found that babies in the womb are more susceptible to DNA damage from air pollution than are their mothers, especially from pollutants like PM2.5 (particles smaller than 2.5 microns) and ultrafine particles, such as soot in vehicle exhaust emissions.5 This is because pollution exposure causes a fetus’ telomeres to prematurely shorten due to stress and inflammation resulting from damage from pollutant particles. Telomeres are a crucial component of the chromosomes that make up human DNA – typically, telomeres shorten as a person ages, so seeing them shorten while a fetus is still in the womb is a sign of significant damage that can lead to a reduced life expectancy and a higher risk of health problems after birth.6

Studies like these make it easy to see why an air purifier belongs in baby’s room – simply reducing or removing pollutants from the air your baby breathes can almost entirely eliminate the risks of diseases and DNA damage that can have devastating lifelong consequences.

So what do I do about it?

When it comes to giving your baby the cleanest air, not all air purifiers will cut it. Here are some tips to choose the right air purifier for your baby so that you can make sure they get the one thing they can’t live without: clean air, free of pollutants and other irritants.

Don’t buy an ionizing or ozone-generating air purifier.

Some parents mistakenly purchase an ionizing air purifier for a baby’s room because they assume that an absolutely quiet system is best for their baby. 

Ionizing air cleaners are perhaps quiet, but they are dangerous. The same technology that produces negatively charged ions also emit ozone, a lung irritant. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency warns against using ozone-producing air cleaners at all, so why take chances in a newborn’s room?7

Don’t be afraid of a little white noise.

Some parents also wrongly assume that silence is best in baby’s room, whereas baby experts, along with experienced moms and dads, know that babies sleep best with a little “white noise” in the room to lull them to sleep. 

“Amazingly, the sounds (babies) heard 24/7 in the uterus were about twice as loud as a vacuum cleaner, so babies love and need strong rhythmic noise,” says Dr. Harvey Karp, author of “The Happiest Baby on the Block.”8,9 

An air purifier may not be as loud as a vacuum cleaner, but it will get the job done.

For many babies, the sound of a fan running in the air purifier will be all they need to fall asleep, while other babies might prefer music or the sounds of nature. 

Start out small and see what works for your baby – some babies are soothed simply by the sound of a fan running, but others may need less obvious types of white noise, such as a computer keyboard clacking or a parent snoring.10

Use an air purifier to blanket your baby in clean air.

An air purifier run at higher speeds will generate more noise, but it’s important to place the air purifier in a place where there will be no drafts in the baby’s crib, as the cool air can weaken your baby’s immune system and make them more susceptible to infections.11

You can also solve the problem of noise and drafts by using the Atem® Desk nursery air purifier to blanket your baby in clean air, directed right into your baby’s crib or bed with the PureJet Diffuser. With an adjustable fan speed, you can set your Atem to deliver the exact amount of airflow and produce just the right amount of noise for your baby to breathe clean air and sleep soundly with optimal white noise.

Article Resources

[1] Gauderman WJ, et al. (2004). The effect of air pollution on lung development from 10 to 18 years of age. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa040610

[2] Karr CJ, et al. (2009). Influence of ambient air pollutant sources on clinical encounters for infant bronchiolitis. DOI: 10.1164/rccm.200901-0117OC

[3] Norton A. (2010). Air pollution tied to babies’ ear infection risk. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-air-pollution-idUSTRE6B162I20101202 

[4] Girguis MS, et al. (2018). Exposure to acute air pollution and risk of bronchiolitis and otitis media for preterm and term infants. DOI: 10.1038_s41370-017-0006-9.ris

[5] Factor-Litvak P, et al. (2017). Environmental exposures, telomere length at birth, and disease susceptibility in later life. DOI: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2017.3562

[6] Martens DS, et al. (2017). Prenatal air pollution and newborns’ predisposition to accelerated biological aging. DOI: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2017.3024

[7] Ozone generators that are sold as air cleaners. (2018). https://www.epa.gov/indoor-air-quality-iaq/ozone-generators-are-sold-air-cleaners 

[8] Karp H. (2015). The happiest baby on the block: The new way to calm crying and help your newborn baby sleep longer. New York, NY: Bantam Books. 

[9] Karp H. (2018). The 5 S’s for soothing babies. https://www.happiestbaby.com/blogs/baby/the-5-s-s-for-soothing-babies

[10] Cherney K. (2019). The pros and cons of using white noise to put babies to sleep. https://www.healthline.com/health/parenting/white-noise-for-babies 

[11] Is your newborn baby’s immune system strong enough? (2017). https://health.clevelandclinic.org/is-your-newborn-babys-immune-system-strong-enough/ 
 

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