Five Places Toxins are Hiding In Your Nursery

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The excitement of preparing your baby’s nursery can be one of the most memorable times during pregnancy. You will most likely spend countless hours in the nursery you’ve designed, bonding and creating memories with your little one. For me, my babies’ rooms quickly became one of the most treasured spaces in my house.

But nurseries and baby products in general can introduce your newborn to many toxins and chemicals. Babies are born to us with sensitive skin, lungs that are still growing and skulls that are still forming to protect their brain.  They need our protection from a world of chemicals and toxins in order to flourish and grow.  Your newborn will most likely spend the majority of their time over their first year in their nursery and crib.  Creating a non-toxic environment for them to spend their time will create a happier, healthier baby.

CRIB

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Your baby will be surrounded by the walls of their crib as they snooze.  Whatever VOCs are dispersed into the air are directly surrounding your baby as they breathe all night.  Finding a crib that is free from toxins and VOCs is extremely important to their lungs, immune system and nervous system.  Many cribs are made with pressed woods that emit the VOC, Formaldehyde, which has proven to be a dangerous carcinogen.  Another scary toxin in your crib may be lead.  While most of think lead is no longer used in paints and finishes, the truth is it is.  If it is free of lead, double check to make sure the manufacturer hasn’t replaced lead with Cadmium, which is an equally dangerous heavy metal.

What to look for instead:

  • Formaldehyde Free: A crib that is labeled this way is free from the toxic glues used in pressed woods and plywoods.  
  • VOC Free/No VOCs:  This is a better label than “low VOC”, which means it contains VOCs from various sources. A product free from all VOCs means there is no lead or cadmium in the paint or varnish.
  • Water Based Finishes: Water based finishes are safer than petroleum based finishes.  However, it could mean your product still contains low amounts of VOCs in the paint through heavy metals.
  • Lead FREE: Avoid products labeled as “Lead Safe”.  “Lead Safe” does not mean it is FREE of lead, and therefore it will still emit VOCs from unsafe heavy metals.  “Lead Safe” means the manufacturer has met the federal standards, which actually does allow these toxins in our products.

GreenGuard Cribs from Amazon


GreenGuard Cribs from Target


MATTRESS

You want your baby to get a good night’s sleep, and a mattress can influence just that.  But a mattress that your baby lays on throughout the day and night can also release toxins as their bodies heat it up and introduce moisture to the mattress.  Beware of mattresses with chemical flame retardants, vinyl covers made with PVC, memory foam and polyurethane foam containing petroleum.  Also be sure to avoid mattresses made of bamboo, which has chemicals added to it in order to make bamboo a soft material.

What to look for instead:

  • Wool:  Wool is naturally fire resistant and therefore passes many of the regulations put on mattresses in the US. Look for high density wool mattresses specifically, otherwise you could be purchasing a blend of natural cotton (which contains pesticides) and wool. You’ll also want to make sure your mattress is 100% organic wool in order to avoid purchasing a mattress with added chemicals.
  • Natural Latex Foam:  This type of foam comes from the rubber tree and is naturally resistant to mold, mildew, bacteria and mites.  Avoid synthetic latex as it is made from petroleum.
  • GreenGuard or GOTS Certified: Both of these third party testing facilities are highly regarded by consumers and professionals alike.  Their certifications include a comprehensive examination of the finished product as well as the manufacturing process.

GreenGuard Certified Crib Mattresses



BABY MONITOR

Most of us have a love/hate relationship with the baby monitor.  What a convenience to be able to see our precious little one as they sleep.  However, I myself have even cursed the baby monitor when I hear it notifying me at 3 AM that my two year old is having a conversation with her lovey.   While baby monitors are helpful and a great tool, they also produce electromagnetic fields (EMF) throughout your baby’s room.  EMFs produced by electronics are becoming a highly studied phenomenon.  Researchers have recently found that the EMFs produced by a digital baby monitor can interfere with a baby’s sleep patterns and create behavioral disorders as they get older.  It’s also been found that  babies at are affected much more severely when compared to adults as their skulls are not completely developed.

How to use a baby monitor safely:

  • Distance: The strength of electromagnetic field radiation drops off quite quickly the farther away you are from a monitor.  Keep your baby’s monitor at least 6 feet away from the crib and you’ll avoid high exposure to your newborn.
  • Voice Activated: Using a voice activated monitor means that the monitor is not constantly transmitting sound from the base to your unit.  Often times you can adjust the sensitivity so you can ensure you will always hear baby’s needs.  This voice activation tactic will reduce the amount of EMF exposure your baby receives throughout the night.
  • Analog Monitors or 900 MHz Monitors: While the range for these monitors is not great, they run at a lower frequency that does not affect your baby’s sleep habits as much as a monitor that runs on WI-FI, digital monitors or DECT frequency monitors.

Analog Baby Monitors


FLOORING

Rugs, carpet padding and carpets made of synthetic fibers are full of chemicals that off-gas toxins into the room.  If someone is thinking about getting new carpet for the nursery, I often advise against it.  That new carpet smell?  That would be chemicals off-gassing into the room.  Natural wood flooring is a much better option in this situation. The benefits of a natural fiber rug go a long way, including the fact that you can air them outside, and disinfect them with some natural and free sunshine.  Synthetic carpet on the other hand off-gasses more VOCs the older it gets and holds on to dust and moisture (creating a home for dustmites and mold).

Safe Flooring Options:

  • Natural Fiber Rugs: 100% organic rugs are your best option when it comes to a nursery floor.  This will ensure you receive natural fibers that are free from VOCs and toxins.
  • Rugs made in the US:  The US often uses pesticides on fibers that are imported to ensure they are “safe” for us.  You don’t want to add pesticides to your nursery, so opt for Made in the USA.
  • Cork Flooring: There are now many styles and options when it comes to this flooring option.  Cork is made of natural materials and does not release toxic gas.  Cork is also a low-static surface, meaning it is resilient to dust.  On top of which, it creates a thermal layer, maintaining an even temperature throughout the year.  It also dampens sounds in a room and is naturally flame resistant.  

Affordable Natural Fiber Rugs


PAINT

Most, if not all of us have painted our kids rooms in anticipation of their arrival.  It’s one of the best ways to create a space that is tailored to your baby and their personality.  But adding paint to a room can also add toxic VOCs and other chemicals that increase the risk for asthma and allergies.  VOCs in paint have also been known to cause nervous system damage.  It’s important to know that not all solvents added to paints are regulated as VOCs.  Some water based paints use mercury as a fungicide.  Lead and Cadmium are heavy metals that can be added to paint as well.  All of these additives are unsafe and create a toxic environment.

Baby-Safe Paint to Purchase:

  • No VOC/VOC Free Paint:  Remember that Low VOC simply means the paint meets federal standards, which actually does allow for harmful toxins to be used in paint.  NO VOC or VOC Free means it contains NO VOCs at all.  Paints lighter in color typically have lower levels of VOCs.
  • Milk Paint:  A paint that is making a comeback.  You can search Amazon for milk paint powders that you can mix up yourself or look for them at your local hardware store.  It’s a great, natural option for painting, especially painting furniture.  
  • Green Seal or GreenGuard:  This third party certification looks at the paint, the additives, and the manufacturing plant when it comes to toxic-free options.  Their trusted approval helps many parents decide on safe painting options for their baby’s walls and furniture.

VOC Free Paint for Nurseries


Keeping baby’s room free of toxins and added chemicals will keep the indoor environment healthy and safe.  A healthy nursery = a healthy baby.

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