7 Steps to Creating a Healthy Nursery
Create a healthy and safe home for your children before they arrive. Look at the environment the child will be spending most of their time, and select the appropriate materials and finishes to furnish that space. This will go a long way toward providing your children a nurturing and toxin free environment.
1. Indoor Air Quality
Air quality standards have been set for the workplace, there are virtually no standards required for residential construction and remodels. People spend between 80% and 90% of their time indoors, maintaining optimum Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) is imperative to the health of your family.
Improvements in residential design over the past few decades have increased the efficiency of our homes and decreased the amount of energy used for heating and cooling. The amount of exterior air infiltrating into the homes has decreased dramatically. Air Quality experts have scientific data indicating the air inside our homes is substantially more polluted that the air outsid
Practical and Healthy Habits:
- Open Windows Daily. 10-15 minutes to release stale air and contaminants.
- Change Filter on Furnace. Filters that are used beyond their recommended time will be re-circulating dust and pollutants back into the house. Change filters as recommended by manufacturers.
- Install smoke and carbon monoxide monitor alarms in nursery.
Safest and Healthiest selections are hardwoods, natural cork floors, bamboo and linoleum - Easily cleaned and will not hold dust, mites, or other airborne contaminants.
Natural fiber area rugs can be used. Periodically remove and sanitize with a non-toxic cleaner.
Carpeting is not recommended – It traps any contaminants that enter the room, including material that arrives on the bottoms of shoes. Although manufacturers are producing carpeting of natural fibers with non-toxic backing; the majority of carpets on the market are manufactured using toxic flame retardants, chemical stain resistors, and synthetic fibers.
A study by the EPA showed that some of the chemicals emitted from new carpets include toluene and xylene, both neurotoxins, benzene, a human carcinogen, and styrene, an irritant and suspected carcinogen.
Commercial carpet cleaners may use extremely toxic chemicals that can cause neurological and respiratory damage. You don’t want to live in a room with these chemicals, and you especially don’t want a small child crawling on them.
3. Walls and Ceilings
Many homes built before the mid 1970’s have asbestos in them. The familiar “popcorn” ceilings are an indication that there may be asbestos present. If an expensive and disruptive asbestos abatement is not in the budget, and the asbestos has not been disturbed, it is recommended that the ceiling be left alone. However, if any new construction work is to be done, an asbestos removal company should perform the work. Generally a permit is required from your municipality to do this work.
The room should be inspected for mold. Look for discoloration or water stains on the sheetrock or plaster. Indications are usually found around windows, exterior doors, on the ceiling, and where the walls meet the floor and ceiling. If any mold is present, it should be removed and the source of the water penetration found and repaired.
4. Paints and Finishes
As recently as a few years ago there were few choices available for low VOC (volatile organic compound) paint. Now many of the established paint manufacturers provide low voc and no voc paints. The new paint smell that we are all accustomed to is the result of chemicals being released as the paint is drying. We don’t want to release chemicals into our homes. One thing to be aware of is that while some of the base paint (the white base to which color is added) may be no VOC the colors added can contain the chemicals. It is best to check with the manufacturer and/or paint supplier. Several other no-VOC finishes are available, including lime based paints and plaster, clay based paints and plaster, Venetian plaster, and milk paints.
Now it’s time to put furniture into the room. For cribs and beds choose wood, constructed out of reclaimed material or FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified lumber, or bamboo, which is a sustainable, durable material. Avoid any products made of particle board or MDF, which contain chemical glues and bonding agents. Mattresses made with wool are naturally fire retardant and don’t need to be treated with chemicals. Natural latex foam, made from the sap of rubber trees, breaths much more than synthetic foam, which comes from petroleum. Synthetic foam accumulates moisture which attracts mites and mildew. Latex foam is naturally anti-bacterial and resists mold and mildew. For linens, pillows, comforters, towels, choose natural untreated cotton or wool for pesticide and chemical free fabrics, colored with plant based dyes.
Make sure that the toys for your child are completely safe. It is difficult today to find products that are not made overseas. However it is well worth the effort to do the research and to make sure that the country of origin has health and safety laws that are as stringent, better yet more stringent, than those of the United States. The material used and the finishes applied to toys can be very toxic. Recently many toys from the major toy manufacturers were recalled because they contained lead paint. Buy products that are made from natural materials, using natural finishes. Make sure that any plastic toys are made of HDPE (high density polyethylene). It is considered the safest plastic around. Many of these toys are made from recycled milk containers.
If you have toys from your childhood or from your parents’ childhood, family heirlooms or antiques, and don’t know what they are made of or what the finishes contain, have them evaluated or use them as decorations. Don’t put them in contact with your children.
7. Buying Local
When making any purchase, for yourself or your child, buy from local sources. This supports your community and America. It is an unfortunate fact that the large manufacturers have moved their production facilities to countries with the cheapest labor costs, and the least stringent environmental standards. They sell products to improve their bottom line, not necessarily the health and welfare of the people buying their products. There are many companies in this country that produce safe, beautiful, quality products made from natural, local materials. Support them and you support the physical and economic health of the country and home.
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