For all their cuteness, babies can be great stinkers. Sometimes the nursery is not the best-smelling place in the house because of all the pooping and peeing they do.
Some parents opt for air-fresheners in plug-in and spray forms, candles and the like. Unfortunately, these products are not safe for infants.
According to Dr. Stanley Fineman, an allergist at Atlanta Allergy and Asthma Clinic, '[Air fresheners] emit volatile organic compounds and have been associated with increased incidence of respiratory problems and asthma in children living in homes with these products,' he says.
Some products that claim to be organic may not as safe for babies as they claim to be. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), do not be fooled by the term 'organic' on product labels. Volatile organic compounds or VOCs include a variety of chemicals that are released as gases from certain solids or liquids. Some of these may cause long term and short term health problems for babies. Also, the EPA adds, 'Concentrations of many VOCs are consistently higher indoors (up to 10 times higher) than outdoors.' And parents who only wish to make their homes smell fresher (which we associate with cleanliness) are adding to the high concentration of VOCs inside their homes. 'Volatile organic compounds are found in most of the commonly used home air fresheners and deodorizers,' Dr. Fineman says. 'These can cause irritation of the lining of the respiratory passages. This is a particular problem for infants who have fragile, developing airways.'
What's more, many household products are not required to list down their ingredients; meaning there might be ingredients that could be harmful to your child. Up to 90 percent of fragrances are synthesized from petroleum, not from natural sources, says Christine Robinsons, a San Diego environmental hygienist. Some harmful chemicals found in fragranced products include acetone, benzene, phenol, toluene, benzyl acetate and limonene. And though they come in levels below recognized exposure limits, their combinations can create symptoms that cannot be easily identified.
Healthy Freshening Alternatives
As 'green homes' become more and more popular, parents are becoming more adept at freshening up their homes without harmful chemicals.
Some parents use essential oils to keep their babies' rooms smelling good. You can put essential oil in a small jar with a terra cotta lid and a dip stick. The terra cotta absorbs the essential oil and releases the nice scent into the room. When it gets really smelly you can use an essential oil freshener. Add a few drops of essential oil in a spray bottle filled with distilled water and spray the mixture in your child's room.
Robinson also recommends getting to the source of the stink. 'Odors can be indicators that there is a problem that warrants investigation,' she says. 'There is nothing wrong with enjoying the calming scent of lavender, but not if it's covering up symptoms of a potentially harmful problem that can be easily corrected.' She recommends using products that absorb odor instead of artificial fragrances that mask it.