New Baby: How to Make a Nursery that Breathes Clean and Safer Air

Is your nursery safe?
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.

Dialed In: Know the Best Bedding for your Baby

Parents are fast taking the approach that baby proofing their home also includes creating a nursery free of toxic chemicals. The hazards of chemical exposure to newborns whose immune systems are developing, is especially dangerous. According to: Healthy Child, Whole Child, written by authors Stuart H. Ditchek, M.D., and Russell H. Greenfield, M.D., “pound for pound, children take in more air, more food, and more water – and whatever contaminants they contain – than do adults.”

So it makes sense to protect your baby from unnecessary exposures. With regards to a sleep surface, a traditional crib mattress sounds like a harmless product. But unfortunately, most conventional crib mattresses are made of petrochemicals that off gas. What lies inside the mattress to give it its firmness, padding and covering is largely a chemical creation. There are also chemical fire retardants within.

Best thing to do is to avoid a conventional baby mattress altogether and buy one that is organic. I know that some people find this concept strange… maybe even pretentious. However, in your search for a baby mattress, looking for “organic” will weed out the conventional crib mattresses on the market. To learn more about this topic, we suggest reading our guide to organic crib mattresses.

Also, note that there is a big difference between the materials used in a conventional baby mattress compared to one that is organic. Not to throw the word “organic” around too loosely… what I am referring to specifically is a crib mattress that is made with only a few raw materials: organic wool, organic cotton, 100% natural latex, and or innerspring. To meet federal and state flammability laws, all mattresses sold in the United States must use a fire retardant. In an “organic” mattress wool acts as a natural fire retardant.

In an upcoming blog post I will include a list of organic crib mattress manufacturers with details and descriptions for your use.

Regards,
Nicole