How a home’s air quality can impact child development

By Emily Folk

When someone mentions air pollution, you may picture dangerous plumes of smoke billowing out of power plants into the atmosphere. You might imagine dark grey fumes blowing out a car’s tailpipe. However, you may not realise indoor air can be just as polluted as what’s outside your home. Unseen and odourless, pollutants either find their way in through windows, cracks and HVAC systems or are produced within the house.  

From carbon monoxide to fine particulate matter, indoor air pollution poses a serious health risk to everyone within the home.

Children, however, are most at risk since they are small and still developing. Thus, their lungs, brains and other organs can suffer damage and limited growth if they inhale pollution both before and after birth.  

Hurts Young Brains  

Air pollution within the home can negatively impact brain development, making exposed children more likely to develop behavioral and learning disorders. These disorders may manifest themselves as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or even autism, and can affect a child’s cognitive abilities.  

In one study, children exposed to higher particulate matter had a thinner cerebral cortex in various regions of the brain, directly affecting their inhibitory control. Moreover, this exposure to air pollution occurred during fetal development, suggesting that the particulate matter impacts brain development before children are even born.  

Damages Organs  

The brain isn’t the only part of a child’s body that is affected by air pollution.

Particulate matter, carbon monoxide, asbestos and other common pollutants can damage other organs, like the heart, liver, bladder and skin.

This organ destruction is the result of contaminants causing inflammation that floods the body, carrying particulates through the bloodstream to expose nearly every organ.  

Pollutants like carbon monoxide from gas leaks can also rob the brain, organs and tissues of oxygen, making small children especially susceptible to poisoning and serious health problems like organ failure.  

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