Babies tend to spend a lot of time with their faces just inches from the floor. Whether they are scooting, crawling or just hanging out on a play mat, a baby placed on the floor is a baby who cannot fall to the floor. But while floor play may indeed be the safest play, it has a downside. According to experts, the air down there is far dirtier than the air up where we grownups breathe.
Alan Greene, a pediatrician at Stanford University’s Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, says that a baby who spends a lot of time on the floor (and what baby doesn’t?) is exposed to nearly five times the household dust that adults are. And that dust, he says, is most likely full of toxins that could seriously compromise a little one’s health.
Little kids under the age of two are not only exposed to more toxins than adults, they are more vulnerable to them. Because their little bodies are still developing, the introduction of chemicals commonly found in paint, flooring and rugs increases their chances of developing cancer. In fact, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, a child who is exposed to a carcinogen is 10 times more likely to develop cancer than an adult.
And if toxic dust isn’t bad enough, many babies come into the world already pre-polluted. According to a report by the President’s Cancer Panel in May, industrial chemicals are often present in umbilical cord blood. And not just a little, either. Researchers from the the Environmental Working Group studying umbilical cord blood found 180 carcinogens in babies and 217 chemicals that are known to be toxic to the brain or nervous system.
So, how do we keep babies safe from the toxic world into which they’ve been born? While Dr. Greene says we should be “10 times more careful with children,” the only practical advice offered comes from another pediatrician. Dr. Harvey Karp, author of “The Happiest Baby on the Block” says opening the windows in your home on a daily basis will help clean the air.
Obviously, parents can and should do more than that. Healthy Child Healthy World has a list of tips parents can follow to reduce the amount of toxins an unborn child is exposed to during pregnancy. Another tip sheet contains advice for protecting the health of children, including recipes for homemade cleaning products.
Image: life’s too short/Flickr