How to Monitor & Alter Indoor Air Quality
What does air quality consist of? Indoor air quality refers to the temperature, humidity level and the level of allergens and toxins in the air. In general, most products that contain toxins and VOCs off-gas at a MUCH higher rate in warm, humid air. And in general, most nurseries are kept fairly warm and have a lot of moisture in the air due to the amount of time babies are in their cribs sleeping.
And while you don’t want to have an extremely humid bedroom for baby, you also can’t have the air too dry. Air that is too dry for a baby will play a huge role in congestion and dry skin. Babies come to us with sensitive skin and accustomed to a warm, humid environment.
Let’s talk about how to attain the perfect amount of moisture in your home or nursery’s air. First, we recommend investing in an Indoor Air Quality Monitor. There are SEVERAL that you can choose from. Some will work with an app on your phone, and others are inexpensive battery operated devices you can check yourself.
If you’re unsure of where to start, I recommend getting a basic, inexpensive, battery operated unit to help you determine the indoor humidity in each room.
Ideally, we want indoor relative humidity levels to sit somewhere between 35% - 45%. Any lower and you will feel the effects of dry indoor air (dry skin, respiratory problems and dry eyes). Any higher than that range and you will start to create an environment that harbors dust mites, mold and other toxins that thrive in moisture-rich environments. Dustmites stop reproducing when the indoor humidity is around 40% and while mold can grow with ANY amount of moisture, the lower end of the spectrum will not promote mold growth.
If you’ve tested your nursery and you’re finding the room is much too humid, there are steps you can take to reverse your problem.
- Does the room have proper ventilation? Check to make sure the HVAC vents are open and unblocked in your nursery.
- Does your home use a humidifier? If so, turn it off temporarily to see if it improves the amount of relative humidity in the nursery.
- Are there plants in the nursery? Plants actually give off high levels of moisture (especially if they are over watered). A room’s relative humidity can jump up 10% just from plants. Remove plants to try and improve the moisture levels in the nursery.
- Is there condensation on the windows? Depending on your climate and the region you live in, this may not be a problem. Check for moisture first thing in the morning on your nursery windows. If you have moisture and condensation on the windows, the first thing to do is towel dry the windows to remove the moisture. Second, you can check out our Windows & Walls Module to delve deeper into the issue.
- Consider the location of the nursery. Is it in close proximity to a bathroom, the kitchen? Is it in the basement? These are generally moisture rich areas of a home. You may want to consider a dehumidifier (you can even make your own non toxic version!) if the moisture level is extremely high.
- Checking for leaks is the last avenue if the above has not improved the moisture levels of your nursery. You will want to check for leaks inside the walls and ceilings. You can also check the roof above baby’s room. Also make sure kitchen and bathroom vents are not vented into an attic space, but properly outdoors.
Poor indoor air quality for pregnant mothers also has an impact on the behavior and development of their children. A Columbia University study connected exposure to some air pollutants to a predisposition different behavior problems in children. This included problems regulating their thoughts, emotions and behaviors. This is why from pregnancy all throughout your child’s life the quality of the air they breathe is of the utmost importance. Our bodies are wonderfully complex and take in so much of what we exposed to. By creating a healthy environment to surround our children with, we are offering them a jump start on a healthy life.