Creating a nursery is not always easy, especially if you want to start from scratch without prior experience. From experience, I know that it is harder to create a non-toxic nursery without accurate information broken down into bite-sized pieces. Of course, no parent worthy of the name will bring items labelled with the skull and crossbones into the nursery; yet, toxins have a way of making their ways into our nurseries in the most seemingly harmless of ways.
In my quest for knowledge on how to create a toxic free nursery for my kids, I have uncovered 5 simple ways that will set you firmly on the path to creating a non-toxic nursery. It is quite a lengthy post and you can jump to any specific part that interests you if you'd rather not read the whole post now.
- Non-Toxic Paint
The paint on the walls and the coatings on the furniture of your nursery might look harmless; yet, many traditional paints are loaded with harmful chemicals that release dangerous substances such as formaldehyde into the air.
One of the dangerous components of paint is Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) which are associated with respiratory, allergic or immune effects in babies and children. Nonetheless, you might be fooled into buying such dangerous paints because of labels such as Low VOC or Zero VOC. One fact that I have discovered is that labels about the safeness of traditional paints might be misleading especially when there isn’t an independent body to verify and confirm such claims.
Warning Lights on Traditional Paints
- A Zero-VOC label doesn’t necessarily mean that the paint is completely free of VOCs since paints with the Zero-VOC label can contain less than five grams of VOCs per liter.
- Low-VOC paints use water as carrier as opposed to petroleum-based solvents, but they may contain less than fifty grams of VOC per liter.
- A Green Wise logo suggests that the paint is environmentally safe; yet, it only means that the paint meets the general standards of paint producers.
The Smartest Choice of Paint
Your best bet for staying on the safer side with paint used in the nursery is to opt for paint produced from natural materials or food safe ingredients. Some unconventional paints that are safe for nursery use are made from pigments, clay, talcum, chalk, lime and even milk protein. If your kids love art projects, a DIY yourself approach to eco-friendly paint is a creative way to make non-toxic paint for kids.
2. Non-toxic Baby Crib
Babies naturally sleep for about 10 to 15 hours per day in their first year; hence, the importance of non-toxic cribs can never be overemphasized. Toxicity in baby cribs is very probable because of industrial processes that treat cribs and beddings with flame-retardants. Flame-retardants have been connected to hormone disruptions, neurological impairments and cancers among other things; yet, they don’t always survive fire.
The basic things you need to set up a non-toxic crib include; non-toxic crib furniture, a non-toxic mattress, non-toxic sheets, non-toxic baby blankets and non-toxic baby beddings among others.
Best Practices for Non-Toxic Cribs
- Your best bet for non-toxic cribs are cribs made from solid wood, bamboo, rattan or willow.
- If you are buying a vintage crib, opt for something made after 1990 when the Consumer Product Safety Commission's standard was raised.
- If you are not sure about the safety of the finish or coating on a crib, the smart move is for you to leave the new crib outdoors for at least four weeks to allow potentially harmful substances offgas into the air.
Cribs to Avoid in a Non-Toxic Nursery
For the peace of mind that a non-toxic crib provides, you should avoid cribs that are made from the following materials because the probability that they contain Formaldehyde is high:
- Laminated wood
- Medium-density fiberboard
3. Non-toxic Beddings
You should not leave the issue of toxicity in beddings to chance because the body of your baby will always be in close contact with bedding materials.
No-Frills approach to Buying Non-Toxic Beddings
- For non-toxic mattresses, you should start your search with vinyl-free wool mattresses or cotton mattresses.
- Mattresses labeled with the Global Organic Textile Standards (GOTS) label are also good. The label attests that a mattress is produced from fabrics and fiber certified by the E.U's Organic Program, which is bilaterally synonymous to the National organic program the USDA.
- For blankets and sheets, products made from organic cotton and organic wool will provide you with peace of mind.
- You may also want to consider baby beddings made from hemp especially when it has been mixed with silk to make it softer.
- The so-called "green" Soybean foam might only contain 12 to 17% genetically engineered soybean oil, while the rest can be anything.
- You should also note that natural cotton does not necessarily translate into organic cotton.
4. Non-toxic Flooring
You will have a hard time keeping babies off floors when they start crawling or walking in exploration of their environment. Listed below are my thoughts on the best flooring materials for a toxic free nursery. Nonetheless, you should ascertain that the finish on the floor is hardwax oil, water-based polyurethane or drying oil.
- Eco-friendly hardwood
- Cork flooring
- Bamboo flooring
You may prefer the soft feeling that a carpet provides because babies are prone to slips and falls. If a carpet appeals to you more than hardwood floor, you should keep the following in mind:
- You are better off sticking with your current carpet and cleaning it with a green carpet cleaning system instead of buying new wall-to-wall carpeting.
- If you must buy new carpets, your best choice should be a 100% wool carpet and it should be fixed with tacks rather than glue.
5. Non-toxic Toys
Any attempt to discuss the issue of toys in a non-toxic nursery will invariably lead us to talk about plastics and all the dangerous that they carry. BPA (bisphenol-A) is a harmful chemical used in the production of polycarbonate plastics. One of the dangers associated with BPA is the disruption of hormonal functions by mimicking estrogen.
Many of the toys available are made from plastics that contain phthalates, PVC, arsenic, cadmium, mercury and lead among others. The worst part is that practically all of these toys are in close contact with your baby and babies tend to put their toys in the mouth which is why you’ll need to clean the toys often. Look for fragrance free, non-toxic dish soap so you aren’t introducing toxins into your baby’s mouth.
How to Make Sure that Your Kids are Playing Safe
- The fastest and easiest route to avoiding non-toxic toys is to buy toys made from non-toxic wood or toys made from organic fabric.
- Amazon offers a wonderful selection of non-toxic wood toys and organic fabric toys and the peace of mind that comes from knowing that your baby is playing safe is priceless.
- If you are in doubt about toxicity in a particular toy, you can run a search on http://www.ecocenter.org/ to know the measure of its health risk of chemical exposure.
6. Non-toxic Cleaners
Let’s face it, a nursery needs to be cleaned, and often! Cleaning not only helps to keep the space sanitary and germ-free but it also removes potential allergens like dander and dust.
But if you’re using conventional cleaners, you’re leaving behind a whole host of airborne toxic residues that are unhealthy for babies. Instead seek out naturally-derived non-toxic and fragrance-free cleaners. In addition, you’ll want to make sure you’re using Gentle/Delicate and fragrance free and laundry detergent. I recommend the products from Grab Green, an eco-friendly company in California, but if you follow these guidelines you should be safe.
Look for cleaners that meet these criteria:
- Free of phosphates, chlorine, dyes and masking agents.
- Free of ammonia and formaldehyde
- Made with naturally-derived, biodegradable ingredients
- Preferably made in the USA so that you have assurance that certain standards are being met.
Six Gold Nuggets for Toxic Free Living
1. You should avoid VOC in paints; opt for paint made from natural or food-safe ingredients.
2. Read labels and understand the certifications on everything that comes into the nursery.
3. Avoid plastic in toys, containers and utensils as much as you can.
4. Flame-retardants are not just worth the risk that accompanies them.
5. When in doubt, leave baby furniture out for at least one month before bringing it into the nursery.
6. To sustain a non-toxic nursery and a toxic free household, I recommend trying out effective, eco-friendly cleaning supplies.