|Make baby's room a haven of safety - Create a Non-Toxic Nursery from the Ground Up!|
If you are remodeling a room in preparation for baby's arrival, you have the opportunity to choose safe, inert materials. Most carpets are synthetic, with fabrications like nylon and polyester. These fibers aren't biodegradeable and give off fumes for years. VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) emissions can include styrene (a suspected carcinogen), 4PC (responsible for that new carpet smell), and formaldehyde (a known carcinogen). Wool carpets with natural latex and jute backings are a better choice, but specialist say that even wool could cause asthma and allergies since dust mites thrive in all carpets and they absorb toxic substances from the air. Think of carpets as a home for dust, mold, bacteria and pet hair - not exactly the ideal environment for your baby to learn to crawl.
The ideal flooring for your nursery and your home is a natural hard surface such as wood, cork, natural linoleum, terracotta tiles, slate, etc. Hard surfaces are easier to keep clean. Pay attention to the finishing, as some finishes could be toxic. Phil Landrigan and Herbert Needleman note in Raising Healthy Children in a Toxic World (Rodale, 2001), that, when inhaled, the TDI in floor finishes "can cause airways sensitivity, and reexposure to TDI can cause chemically induced asthma." Laminate hardwood floors are affordable, but hardly a solution for the green nursery since they are generally a thin strip of wood glued to a base of plywood or chipboard that usually contains large amounts of formaldehyde. Absolutely avoid PVC or vinyl flooring at all costs as it is an extremely toxic choice, emitting high levels of VOC's throughout it's lifetime. Use natural fiber area rugs such as wool, sisal or jute to provide comfort and personality. Wash often and enjoy!
If you will not be putting down new flooring, chances are your nursery is carpeted. Have the carpets steam cleaned without harsh chemicals. The older your carpets are, the fewer VOC's they are likely to release.
Most affordable furniture is made with composite board or press board materials (think particleboard, chipboard, plywood, MDF, etc). These materials are made from wood chips bound together by chemicals and adhesives that usually contain formaldehyde, which emits a dangerous gas. Does that explain that "new furniture" smell that sometimes gives you a headache when you're shopping in cheaper furniture stores?
Although it's certainly not cheap, a solid wood crib, changing table, and storage furniture drastically reduces the amount of toxic fumes lingering in the nursery. Whenever possible, choose furniture made with responsibly harvested and manufactured wood, finished with natural varnishes instead of conventional polyurethane coating. These pieces are heirlooms which will last for generations. In fact, if you can locate any heirloom baby furniture in your family, it may be just what you're looking for! Also consider buying your baby furniture second hand. If you can find top-quality furniture, it is a wonderful way to recycle. Be sure to check rail measurements for safety and examine the entire piece for structural stability.
Didn't think that walls fit into the equation? Think again. If you plan to paint the nursery, choose a non-toxic paint with low or no VOC's. Paint typically contains petrochemical-based solvents that let off harmful gasses, causing allergies, asthma, and skin irritations. Fumes persist intensely for 3-4 days, but are still detectable for 3-4 years in diluted forms. Safe no VOC paints are readily available. You can even find organic paints made from milk, earth pigments, and plant oils. They're pricey, but you don't have to sacrifice color anymore. Be sure to use good ventilation when painting!
When decorating the walls of the nursery, avoid wallpaper. Wallpapers may contain plasticizers that emit toxic gas and use questionable glues. Stencil work or hung artwork are non-toxic alternatives.
In so many ways, the very air we breathe constitues our most worrisome exposure to environmental toxins. From dangerous gases emitted by synthetic products to hazardous dust particals that become airborne, the air in your home may not be safe. This helpful study outlines the typical contributors to toxic household dust.
Because we cannot singlehandedly address and resolve this problem, it is sensible to use an air purifier in baby's room and throughout your house, if possible. Also get in the habbit of ventilating your house whenever possible, if you live in an area that enjoys clean air. An air purifier can remove harmful gases like formaldehyde and ammonia, providing somewhat of a solution when replacing flooring, furniture, etc. is not an option. Natural air purifiers include houseplants such as devils ivy, English ivy, boston fern, bamboo palm, nephthytis, and spider plants. You'll need many houseplants to purify the air in your home, but they add beauty and a peaceful atmosphere as well.