Building a Healthy Nursery Environment - A step at a time

Since World War II at least 75,000 new synthetic chemical compounds have been developed and released into the environment; fewer than half of these have been tested for the potential toxicity to humans, and still less have been assessed for their particular toxicity to children. (www.simplepureclean.com)

As parents our only desire is to provide a healthy, safe and secure environment for our children. We may not be able to provide a 100% chemical free environment, however, with a little care, a lot of reading labels and an awareness of what we are putting into children’s spaces, we can offer them a healthier future.

Task Natural or 'green' products Exposure type Exposure Burden Notes
Cleaning Lemon Juice
Vinegar
Baking Soda
  None
None
None
 
Repainting Use low VOC (if you can smell it is not good for you) Off gassing Low  ventilate area when using
Floor or wall coverings Low VOC paint
Bamboo, wood
Off gassing Low  
None
Keep area well ventilated if applying paint
Cribs, Cribs, dressers, etc. Solid wood or used
furniture
Off gassing in used furniture should already be finished None  
Mattresses, crib bumpers Unbleached Cotton or fabric w/padding      
Toys Cloth, wood, non-plastic materials      

Building a Healthy Nursery Environment - Checklist

Site Preparation

  • Remove furniture to another area or cover to protect from dust and debris
  • Open windows and doors for increased ventilation
  • Sweep or vacuum and dispose of all debris
  • Wipe down all surfaces with clean damp cloth
  • Cleaning Products –  Read all labels carefully
    • Do not mix and match different products you may end up producing a more toxic brew
    • Lemon juice or baking soda are a natural addition to your bucket of water
    • White vinegar is also a natural cleanser and can be used in this application as well as laundry

Wall and ceiling applications

  • Primer, paints and stains should be no or low VOC. 
    • Remember if you can smell it, it includes VOCs.  Also, the darker the color  more VOC’s are needed to pigment the paint.
    • Check for existing lead based paint on surfaces before sanding or scraping
  • Continue to keep good ventilation in the area when applying these products.

Floor Coverings

  • Wood floors are the easiest to keep clean and do not hold dust or debris for posterity
  • If carpeting is desired, look for natural woven fibers, recycled plastic carpet, or area rugs that can be taken away and cleaned. 

Furniture

Crib, Chests, Drawers, Shelving and Mattresses

  • New pieces should be solid wood products, not fiberboard, chipboard or particleboard.
  • New pieces made of fiberboard or chipboard can be mitigated by ensuring that all exposed surfaces are encapsulated by a low VOC paint or sealer.  (remember the holes for pegs and adjustments, a minimum of 3 coats are necessary).
  • Used pieces several years old, acquired at a consignment shop, shared by a friend or found at a garage sale, have typically already off gassed.

Linens and other fabrics

  • Natural fiber linens and clothing not chemically treated for fire, wrinkle or stain resistance. (linen, hemp, silk wool, cotton)
  • Federal law requires treatment of clothing for toddlers to be fire resistant.  This means chemical treatment.  To lessen the off gassing of these products, you should wash them before their first use.  It usually takes 4-5 washings with a non-phosphorus soap to break down these chemicals.
  • Purchasing items from consignment or other similar shops, used and reused have already off gassed.

Toys and Trinkets                   

  • The plastic toys having ‘softness’ and ‘flexibility’  contain phthalates.  Read labels.
  • Alternatives to plastic would be toys stuffed with natural fibers, and wooden toys .
  • Pacifiers, nipples, plastic bottles and bags, if used should not be heated over flame or in a microwave.  The plastic  will breakdown and  leach into the liquid being heated.  Liquids should be warmed before filling containers.