It’s hard to imagine that a nicely decorated nursery with freshly painted walls, new carpet, crib, changing table and some other light furnishings could be anything but safe for your baby. But it can. Most people don’t realize that the finishes, glues and stains used to make most furniture are full of volatile organic compounds, VOCs. Traditional paints, mattresses, blinds, carpets are as well. If you aren’t familiar with VOCs you can learn more here. But essentially, these compounds get emitted as gases from certain liquids and solids. According to the book Green Guide, “certain VOCs such as formaldehyde and benzene, can trigger respiratory, allergic and neurological reactions.” For a baby with a developing immune system these chemicals can be even more dangerous.
What to Do?
Start by shopping for safer alternatives like those that minimize indoor air pollution. Instead of buying traditional paint pick up low-VOC paints; Benjamin Moore makes a line and so does Sherman Williams.
For carpets, many experts recommend staying away from wall to wall conventional carpeting because it’s made with a heap of off-gassing chemicals. An area rug for the nursery tends to be a better choice. You can also look for carpet labeled – low emitting.
For curtains, look for those that are made with natural fibers like cotton, linen, wool and silk. Avoid synthetic fibered curtains which tend to be loaded with flame retardants and chemicals.
Also, take a look at Greenguard.com. This is a third party certifying agent that certifies low emitting products and materials. They offer a free product guide on their website and you can find a lot of good low emitting (Greenguard certified) products here.
As far as the crib and mattress goes, you can do your budget a favor by buying vintage or picking up and/or passing along crib bedding to friends or family members. This is a more environmentally friendly practice too. By buying a vintage crib, it’s been around years so it’s probably finished off gassing.
If you want to buy a new crib, The Everything Green Baby Book recommends “staying away from cheap furniture, which typically contains formaldehyde and high-VOC particle board.” Instead look for a solid wood crib with a water-based wood finish. Regarding a mattress, buying an organic baby mattress is the best way to go.