Optimizing the air for your baby

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Elin Ward is a Product Marketing Manager for Blueair, and the engineer behind the playful air purifier Blue by Blueair. She lives in the city center in Stockholm with her American husband and her English Bulldog. As she is also heavily pregnant with her first baby, we wanted to take the opportunity to ask her some questions about babies and air quality.

Hi Elin! You work with air and air purification all day long. How concerned are you about the air quality your baby will breathe?

We are lucky to live in Sweden, where we generally have really good air quality. However, I live in Stockholm next to one of our busiest roads. And I am concerned about the air quality, especially for my child’s developing immune system and lungs. It’s well known that children in cities develop allergies and have less lung capacity than those from the countryside, partly due to pollution. And air pollution increases during winter due to the use of spike tires in traffic. I keep my air monitor Aware switched on in our future child’s room, to make sure we have control of the air, and I don’t open the street windows to ventilate.

Would you consider moving to a more rural area, just because of the air quality?

I would, but not due to the air pollution… but to be closer to nature. I know Blueair’s products inside out, including all the test results in all of the different stress tests, and I do know we develop extremely good filtration systems. From an engineering perspective, I know that they´re even better than what the marketing department dare say! I run my air purifiers 24/7 in our bedrooms on low speed and know I can trust them to keep our air clean.

Many mothers and fathers to be are ”nesting”, which includes preparing for the baby’s arrival by decorating a room... Is that something you can relate to?

We have got new baby furniture and I pretty much know every corner of every baby store in Stockholm! Since I know almost too much about air and materials, I have made sure that all the furniture is aired out so the “newness smell”, paint fumes and glues are gone by the time the baby comes. I have also washed all baby clothes and textiles to make sure excess colorization, lint and smells are gone. Almost all fabrics I have are organic and gently dyed. I’m also not having any carpets or non-natural textiles, any BPA plastics or chemicals in chewing toys.

What preparations have you avoided?

We haven’t painted any walls or had any new carpets, due to fumes that could linger for up to 6 months or longer. Today we have pretty good options, such as natural paints, organic cotton, natural rubber for toys. I believe children unfortunately will get enough of unnecessary chemicals later in life, so I try to avoid it the first years when I can still have an impact.

I understand you also have a dog. Tell us about him!

We have an English Bulldog called Mr Fritz. He is probably the stubbornest, cutest dog you’ve ever seen. He’s still like a puppy, even though he has turned one, and our friends call him “the dozer,” since he has a bulldozing way of moving around. But Bulldogs are perfect family dogs and he makes us laugh and melts our hearts every day.

A downside with dogs are of course that they cause pet dander. Do you have an ”action plan” to avoid it in the baby’s room?

Pet dander is not harmful to anyone, unless they already have an allergy or a tendency to develop one. Usually it’s the saliva that causes reactions, and Fritz is not a big groomer of himself. That means his fur does not contain high doses of saliva. We have allergies on my side if the family, so to me it’s important to expose the baby to pet dander so the immune system develops, the earlier the better. It’s never nice with dog hair everywhere, so Fritz is groomed regularly, and the air purifier takes care of a huge part of the rest.

Studies have shown that babies in the womb are affected by air quality, and that air can affect a baby’s lungs and respiratory system. There’s also evidence bad air can harm brain development and cause behavioral and cognitive problems. As a mother-to-be, what do you think of this research?

I always try to avoid peaks in pollution when travelling to cities, and I always make sure I stay in hotels with air purifiers and non-smoking rooms. Twice, I had to wear a face mask to protect myself. But even if it’s well documented that air pollution causes damages over time, more research is needed to find out exactly what’s in air pollution, and how it causes damage. The pollution problems are huge and important to solve. It’s one of the biggest concerns of our times.

Studies also suggest also that children’s lungs and brains develop better with better air quality. What’s your thought on this?

If you eat bad food, you get sick. If you drink dirty water you get sick, if you breathe poor air – you probably don’t get the benefits you would with clean air. The trickiest thing about air is that it usually takes longer to develop issues than if you drink bad water, when you will have a pretty instant reaction.

Have you taken any other measures to contribute to cleaner air for your child?

We have always been aware of the impact our choices have. I try to use my bike or the subway as often as I can. If we need to go far, we rent a car since we don’t own one. We also recycle basically everything and avoid buying things we don’t need. There are excellent choices of organically grown food in stores, and we avoid palm oil products. We live in an apartment, which uses less energy than a house. We have energy efficient electrical equipment and lights, we use non-chemical cleaning devices and environmentally safe detergents. Critical thinking goes a long way when it comes to environmental issues, without having to go back to the stone age.

Elin's check list for baby friendly indoor air quality:

Avoid:
  • Cigarette smoke - don't allow smoking indoors
  • Chemical cleaning detergents
  • Heavily scented personal hygiene products, such as perfume and hair sprays 
  • Candles, especially scented ones 
  • Open fires (without good ventilation)
  • Opening windows if you live in a polluted area
  • Carpeting
  • Non-natural textiles
Consider:
  • Washing the baby’s clothes before use with a mild detergent
  • Airing out all new furniture well in time for the baby’s arrival
  • Not painting or putting in carpets for six months before the baby’s born
  • Keeping track of the air quality in the baby’s room
  • Letting an air purifier run 24/7
  • Having only BPA free toys made of natural rubber
  • Using organic, natural fabrics and textiles

We want to take this opportunity to wish Elin and her family the best of luck in the future! 

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