When you’re going to have a baby, your major concerns are their health and safety. You get a solid crib, you research car seats, walkers, swings, and so on. You make sure those products are the best you can get and won’t harm the baby in any way. But there’s another aspect of a baby’s health and safety that many parents don’t think about – the toxicity of the materials in their nursery.
Toxic chemicals have now been linked to everything from learning disorders and autism to cancer and infertility. Taking steps to create a non-toxic nursery now could have wide-reaching, long-term and even life-changing benefits.
So, what do you do to ensure your nursery is non-toxic? Here are the basics:
1. Start with the crib mattress. Your baby will spend 12 to 18 hours a day on it. You don’t want your baby breathing the potentially toxic chemical fumes that may off-gas from most crib mattresses for 12 to 18 hours a day for the next year or two.
2. Next, ensure your baby’s clothes are made with untreated cotton or other natural materials free of chemicals and dyes. Organic is best – even though organic cotton, for example, doesn’t have any pesticide residue in it by the time it becomes fabric, there are still other potentially dangerous chemicals that could be used to make the fabric and clothes. Organic products should be free of those other chemicals as well. At the very least, go for ‘untreated.’
3. You also want toys that don’t contain vinyl and other harmful plastics, same with bottles and nipples. Here’s what Debra Lynn Dadd, the Queen of Green, has to say about children’s toys: “Most toys sold in major toy stores are made from plastics. Plastic is a major contributor to indoor air pollution, and a roomful of new toys can easily envelop your child in a toxic cloud. Remember that synthetic fibers are plastics, too, so evaluate stuffed animals carefully. While you might not find much that is natural in a toy store, there are many natural cloth and wood toys on the Internet. Many are designed to stimulate baby’s imagination and help them learn skills as well as provide amusement.”
4. The furniture in the baby’s room is another concern – no plywood or other types of building materials containing toxic glues. Instead, choose solid wood, natural finishes. While these more natural products will be more expensive, it is an excellent investment in your child’s well being. There are stores that specialize in this kind of product, you can buy unfinished furniture and finish yourself with non-toxic finishes, and can also order them on the Internet.
5. Repainting a room to turn it into the nursery? Watch out for toxic oil-based or water-based latex paint. Instead, get the low- or no-VOC varieties, now available at almost any store that sells paint. Don’t paint the room yourself if you are pregnant. Scraping or sanding walls may expose you to lead dust and toxic chemicals, which can be very dangerous to your baby. Ask your husband, family member of a friend to do the painting. Painting should be done at least a month before the baby arrives in the house; you don’t want to be painting with a newborn in the house.
6. Flooring and floor coverings can also be toxic. Most carpeting and carpets, for example, are made with synthetics AND treated with other chemicals. Some – not all – new carpeting is toxic. It’s probably best to just go with existing flooring rather than installing something new. Just clean it very well. If you have to put down new flooring, Debra Lynn Dadd suggests a hard, natural linoleum. It provides a solid, durable, colorful, attractive surface that is easy to clean.
7. Of course, any cleaning products and deodorizers should also be natural and non-toxic. No synthetic fragrances. If the label on the bottle says ‘fragrance’, it’s synthetic, and toxic. Essential oils used as fragrance are okay.
If there are questions about whether or not a product is safe, Debra Lynn Dadd suggest you use a natural tool – your nose. “If you can smell it, it probably contains something toxic you don’t want your baby to breathe (with the exception, of course, of natural fragrances). So rely on your own senses–if it bothers you, it will bother your baby, so don’t put it in the nursery.”
Your little bundle of joy is the most precious package you will ever hold in your arms. If you protect your baby from harmful chemicals, you’ll be taking great strides towards ensuring your child is healthy, happy, and has a good start in life.