baby and mom in non-toxic nursery

How to Create a Non-Toxic Nursery

A non-toxic nursery sets the stage for your baby’s health at a time when their bodies and minds are developing rapidly. In this post, you’ll find a list of some things to consider when setting up your baby’s nursery.

THE PROBLEM: How do I create a safe, healthy space for my baby, providing for optimal growth and development, without making myself crazy?!

THE SOLUTION: Find reliable sources to guide me to options allowing me to make informed-choices for me and my family ← This is what we’re about here

[I understand this can be both a daunting and expensive process! Focus on doing the best you can. I want parents to be able to make informed decisions. It is never my intent to shame anyone. We can’t weigh our options and choose what’s best for our families if we don’t know our options.]

Mall-walking teens and Volatile Organic Compounds

In case you weren’t a teen in the 90’s or ’00s, the halls of the local mall were the place to go when you weren’t old enough for much else.

One of the things I remember most vividly from my mall-walking days is strolling past Abercrombie and Fitch. The smell from their fragrance was so overpowering, I would sometimes literally hold my breath as I passed.

Mix that with their bumpin’ music (so loud you had to yell to the friend standing next to you should you go inside), and it was every sensitive person’s nightmare.

On the rare occasion I did mosey inside, I would almost always develop a headache. 

Have you ever been in a store where this happened to you, where you actually develop a headache or sore throat? 

One of the explanations for this is the myriad of chemicals put off by many items. This is called “off-gassing” aka “outgassing” and happens when VOCs (volatile organic compounds) are released into the air. 

These VOCs can have serious health implications. 

Per the EPA, these health implications include: 

  • Eye, nose and throat irritation
  • Headaches, loss of coordination and nausea
  • Damage to liver, kidney and central nervous system
  • Some VOCs can cause cancer in animals, some are suspected or known to cause cancer in humans.

Whoa. 

And this is just one part of the chemical soup that could possibly influence the development of your baby as he or she sleeps soundly (or not so soundly, amiright?) in that beautiful new nursery. 

Want to know the real kicker, though? 

These chemicals aren’t all that regulated. 

To begin with, there has only been one big piece of legislation for more oversight on the chemicals that are a part of our day-to-day in the last 50 years. (Read more on the Toxic Substances Control Act passed in 2016 here). 

Secondly, even when a chemical is banned, the replacement is sometimes no better. 

non-toxic nursery is hard to achieve
I know, right?!

So what’s a parent like yourself supposed to do to help create a non-toxic nursery?

Considerations for a non-toxic nursery

Now that we know VOCs are a problem, let’s talk about some other chemicals we might want to avoid.

FORMALDEHYDE 

Formaldehyde is used as a preservative in pressed wood, particleboard, and/or MDF (medium-density fiberboard). You’ll find it in places like cribs, changing tables, dressers, and rockers made of these solid wood alternatives. It’s also used in “wrinkle-free” fabrics, so you may find it in curtains or bedding. 

Like VOCs, it’s been linked to some health problems including:

  • Respiratory issues (asthma, wheezing, sore/dry throat, altered sense of smell), and 
  • Cancer 

Look for solid wood when shopping for furniture (especially cribs) and non-”wrinkle-free” organic fabrics that bear a GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) seal for bedding. 

FLAME RETARDANTS

These bad boys are sprayed on a variety of surfaces including (but not limited to) crib mattresses, rug pads, nap mats, and furniture. 

Problems for children associated with flame retardants vary based on which specific chemical(s) is used. But problems range from:

  • Skin and eye irritation
  • Altered endocrine activity
  • Neurotoxicity 
  • Increased cancer risk

Luckily some manufacturers are listening to consumer demand and you can find products that are better for your little one (and you!). Buying items that are made of a more natural ingredient (like wood, cotton, wool) may decrease your chance of coming into contact with flame retardants. 

When shopping for crib mattresses, in particular, look for ones that use hydrated silica or wool as a barrier. 

BPA/BPS 

We’ve all probably heard of BPA by now, but if you haven’t, here’s the 411. It’s typically used in hard plastics, though it’s also found in other materials such as the lining of aluminum cans and receipts.  

Exposure to BPA has been linked to some not-so-pleasant issues, including endocrine disorders like PCOS and estrogenic cancers. There have also been quite a few studies linking BPA (especially prenatally) to:

  • Behavioral issues
  • Reproductive issues 
  • Reproductive birth defects
  • Obesity and weight gain
  • Insulin resistance and diabetes
  • Cancers 

You might find BPA in your nursery in items like changing pads or rugs. And while BPA isn’t supposed to be used in plastic baby bottles, they’ve usually replaced it with another plasticizer, which often isn’t much better.

Look to stay away from plastics. Try substituting with silicone, glass, or stainless steel when it comes to baby bottles or cups. 

PHTHALATES

When I first learned about toxins in our products over a decade ago, these little buggers were the first chemical that made me reconsider what I was using. And they’re still around wreaking havoc. 

And I’m not stretching the truth when I say they’re almost used almost everywhere. If you’ve used or have been around any of these lately, you’ve likely encountered a phthalate or two:

  • Personal care products (lotions, hair products, cosmetics, fragrances)
  • Home care products (cleaners, disinfectants, candles, deodorizers)
  • Building and home decor products (paints, wall decals, window shades, shower curtains, vinyl flooring, lacquers, varnishes)

Besides what you wash and moisturize your baby with, the toys found in the nursery are important too as little ones often put plastic toys in their mouths. 

As before, these chemicals can play a role in leading to  

  • Altered reproductive and hormonal health (including altered genital and breast development in males and females)
  • Eczema
  • Asthma 

SHORT BREAK TO TAKE A BREATHER

Let’s take a break here to just breathe.

Because this information can be overwhelming, frustrating, anxiety-provoking, etc. [Check out this post if you’re feeling like a little encouragement might just be the ticket right now]

Or look at the happy animals!!!

happy puppy to distract from challenges of non toxic nursery
Look at that face! 😍
happy puppy to distract from challenges of non toxic nursery
Just enjoying a stroll along the shore
happy kitten to distract from challenges of non toxic nursery
Awww, frolicking through the field

Next steps for a non-toxic nursery

That was a lot of information that could potentially blow your mind and/or make you feel like you want to close this and forget you ever read it.

But there is a silver lining. 

  1. Now you know and can make more informed choices. Feel free to go back and look at some of the suggestions for how to create your non-toxic nursery above.
  2. Companies listen to consumer demand. And more and more are changing in light of this information.
  3. You’re not alone in the search and the fight for products with fewer chemicals. 

Want to know some of my choices for products to help with a non-toxic nursery (specifically paint, cribs, crib mattresses, and bottles)? Click here and we’ll send it your way! 

References:

Bisphenol A (BPA) & Bisphenol S (BPS). (2019, June 25). Retrieved from https://saferchemicals.org/get-the-facts/toxic-chemicals/bpa-bps/ 

Facts About Formaldehyde. (2019, June 6). Retrieved from https://www.epa.gov/formaldehyde/facts-about-formaldehyde#whatare

Braun, J. M., Yolton, K., Dietrich, K. N., Hornung, R., Ye, X., Calafat, A. M., & Lanphear, B. P. (2009). Prenatal Bisphenol A Exposure and Early Childhood Behavior. Environmental Health Perspectives, 117(12), 1945–1952. doi: 10.1289/ehp.0900979

Shah, S., Jeong, K. S., Park, H., Hong, Y.-C., Kim, Y., Kim, B., … Ha, E. (2020). Environmental pollutants affecting children’s growth and development: Collective results from the MOCEH study, a multi-centric prospective birth cohort in Korea. Environment International, 137, 105547. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2020.105547

Braun, J. M., Yolton, K., Dietrich, K. N., Hornung, R., Ye, X., Calafat, A. M., & Lanphear, B. P. (2009). Prenatal Bisphenol A Exposure and Early Childhood Behavior. Environmental Health Perspectives, 117(12), 1945–1952. doi: 10.1289/ehp.0900979

Meeker, J. D., Sathyanarayana, S., & Swan, S. H. (2009). Phthalates and other additives in plastics: human exposure and associated health outcomes. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 364(1526), 2097–2113. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2008.0268

Healthy Living Dictionary: E-I. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.ecocenter.org/article/reports/healthy-living-dictionary-e-i#formaldehyde 

Doherty, B. T., Hammel, S. C., Daniels, J. L., Stapleton, H. M., & Hoffman, K. (2019). Organophosphate Esters: Are These Flame Retardants and Plasticizers Affecting Children’s Health? Current Environmental Health Reports, 6(4), 201–213. doi: 10.1007/s40572-019-00258-0

Phthalates: Toxic Chemicals in Vinyl Plastic. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.ecocenter.org/healthy-stuff/reports/vinyl-floor-tiles/flooring_phthalate_hazards 

Volatile Organic Compounds’ Impact on Indoor Air Quality. (2017, November 6). Retrieved from https://www.epa.gov/indoor-air-quality-iaq/volatile-organic-compounds-impact-indoor-air-quality

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