Did you know that children, especially newborns and infants, are more susceptible to environmental hazards than adults? Did you also know that many of the items harmful to your baby can be found in your baby’s room? More and more studies are being conducted that show everything from the paint on the walls to the crib, mattress and even the supplies used to clean can be hazardous to a baby’s health. Chemicals used in the composition of rugs and common household cleaners have been linked to serious childhood health disorders ranging from asthma to cancer. Certain paints can lead to lead poisoning while the fibres in some mattresses can cause serious skin reactions. With careful attention to the design, materials and maintenance in your baby’s room, you can reduce these risks and provide a healthier, safer environment for your baby to grow in.
Many paints contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that give off harmful gases. These gases can remain in the air long after the paint dries. They can also contaminate surrounding items such as furniture and flooring. VOCs produce a number of symptoms in infants and children that range from itchy eyes and runny noses to liver and nervous system damage. Several types of VOCs found in paint have been identified as carcinogens and can lead to cancer in both children and adults. When choosing paint, it is important to avoid paints that list “biocides” or “ethylene glycol ethers” an ingredients. These are toxic solvents that can be especially harmful in pregnant women and young children.
Water based paints are the best choice for your baby’s room. Oil and enamel based paints contain high levels of VOCs and other toxins that can be harmful to your baby. Latex paints should also be avoided if there is a possibility of a latex allergy. The very best paint option is VOC-free water based paints designed specifically for use around infants and children.
Many cribs are made from plywood or other pressed-wood and particleboard products. The adhesives and coatings used on these types of cribs can emit formaldehyde and other VOCs that can cause throat and nose irritation as well as breathing trouble and other health problems. Solid wood cribs sealed with a water-based sealant or treated with a natural oil based finish is best. This also applies to other furniture pieces, such as changing tables and rockers, used throughout the room.
Mattresses are often treated with various types of flame retardants and coated or finished in vinyl or stain resistant chemicals that can be harmful to your baby. A better and safer option is to use a mattress comprised of 100% organic material. Wool is a natural flame retardant and mattresses like the ones sold at www.naturalmat.co.uk use a combination of 100% organic materials (coir, mohair, horsehair and lamb’s wool) to provide excellent support and ventilation.
Growing babies spend a great deal of time exploring the world from the ground up. Carpet can absorb mites, lead dust, pathogens, allergens, pesticides and other tracked-in compounds. Most carpets and padding are made of synthetic chemicals and materials that can also be harmful to your baby. Hardwood flooring is ideal but not always practical. In either event, area rugs provide a safe alternative to protect your baby from the bumps and bruises that go along with exploring the world.
Natural, organic cotton and wool fibre carpet and area rugs that use vegetable-based dyes are safest for your baby. If you are considering replacing the flooring, bamboo, cork, solid wood and linoleum are the safest options.
Many of your everyday household cleaners contain harsh chemicals that can be harmful to your baby. Bleach, aerosol, ammonia and isopropyl alcohol are just a few of the common ingredients you can find in everything from all-purpose sprays to bathroom and kitchen cleaners. In place of these, use baking soda, liquid soap and distilled white vinegar for basic household cleaning. Also look for organic cleaning products on grocery shelves and fragrance free soaps and detergents.