Creating a healthy, non-toxic nursery can be overwhelming! Unfortunately, there are tons of baby products out there that contain chemicals including formaldehyde, flame retardants, PVC, phthalates, and more. It's hard enough to find the perfect nursery furniture to fit into your design scheme, let alone to avoid the toxins that seem to be lurking everywhere! To help you devise a game plan, we've narrowed "green" nursery design down to the following list of 7 suggestions:
If you're going to be painting the walls, choose VOC-free paint, and have someone other than the pregnant mom handling the painting. VOC-free paint is great because it doesn't release the same toxins into the air that are released by conventional paint. Natural milk paints are even better, as they are made from milk protein and earth pigments such as clay and lime. If you're wallpapering, an eco-friendly wallpaper is best, but they are very pricy.
Avoid carpeting if possible, since it is rife with chemicals and allergens. Opt for natural fiber rugs like wool or cotton if you can. You can even find liners made of natural fibers to put beneath the rug if you need extra cushioning.
III. Air Purification
Purify the air. Instead of a white noise machine, why not buy an air purifier? That way you can kill two birds with one stone. Air purifiers are a great way to reduce the airborne toxins (like VOCs) that tend to be a problem indoors, ensuring that your baby breathes nothing but the cleanest air. Or, even easier (and cheaper), you can just open the windows regularly to let in some fresh air!
When buying furniture, try to avoid pressed wood (such as particleboard and other composite woods) and look for water-based finishes, plus certifications like Greenguard, which identify products that have lower chemical emissions. Solid wood is preferable to pressed wood since it doesn't contain as many dangerous chemicals (like formaldehyde), but it can be expensive. Personally, we recommend buying items like dressers and bookshelves used, since they are more affordable and since you know that they have already had years to off-gas. (Just be cautious of furniture that predates 1978, as it may be coated in lead-based paint.)
Dust and vacuum regularly! Toxins accumulate in dust, so make sure to keep it clean in baby's room. Vacuums with HEPA filters are ideal.
VI. Cleaning Products
On that note, pay attention to the cleaning products you use in the nursery. Helpful lists like the ones on the Environmental Working Group's website can steer you towards safer products such as Green Shield Organic's all-purpose cleaning spray or their laundry detergent for baby clothing. If you're the DIY type, you can find plenty of easy, affordable recipes for cleaning products online. For instance, you can kill germs while avoiding harsh chemicals by wiping down surfaces in the baby's room with diluted vinegar or castile soap instead of bleach or conventional sprays.
VII. Airing Out
If you do purchase furniture that is releasing fumes, let it off-gas outside (or at least leave a window open for a while) before the baby arrives. This is a cheap and easy way to reduce toxins in your baby's nursery.
As a parting note, try not to be overwhelmed by this list! If you can take even a couple small steps -- like opening the windows and vacuuming on a regular basis -- you will be able to make a significant difference in the amount of toxins your baby is exposed to. It's not possible to be perfect, but it is possible to make small changes that can have a big impact!