Baby’s Air Pollution Exposure Increases Risk of Allergies

babydIn the past 15 years, the number of children diagnosed with allergies has been rising at an alarming rate. In fact, between 1997 and 2011, food allergies among children under age 18 jumped 50 percent, according to a 2013 report from the CDC. That’s an astonishing amount!

What’s behind these numbers? Well, the jury is still out but there are many studies that have pointed to a few potential causes, which may all be working in concert. The rise has been theoretically attributed to a lot of different factors, including Western society’s newfound obsession with over-cleanliness and parents waiting to introduce infants to foods that are potential allergens like peanuts. And yet another commonly blamed factor? Environmental toxins.

Now, a new study sheds more light on traffic-related air pollution and its effects on kids. New research from the Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development (CHILD) study shows that exposure to outdoor air pollution during the first year of life increases the risk of developing allergies to food, mold, pets and pests.

Researchers measured pollution exposure by estimating nitrogen dioxide levels at each child’s home address, and also evaluated the time each child spent away from home, including daycare, and their home’s ventilation system.

What you can do

What’s a concerned parent to do? If you live in a high-pollution area, be wise about when your child goes outdoors, especially during times when smog and air quality are poorest. Many big cities have air quality reports, especially in the warmer months.

Also, do your part and try to decrease the amount of pollution you personally create, by doing things like car-pooling and even look into a hybrid or electric car. And big changes come when larger groups of people mobilize behind a cause. See what you can do in your city or town to help enact change!

To learn more about how your environment affects childhood allergies, check out these related stories:

Does having pets make kids healthier?

Don’t overclean: The dirt on dirt

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