Wouldn’t you think a non-toxic nursery would be the norm? Unfortunately, not so much.
Before I was pregnant, I knew I would want to utilize non-toxic and eco-friendly products whenever possible when that day came. Reducing and limiting our environmental toxin exposure is important for health and wellness. That being said, it is even more important with a baby.
In addition to non-toxic and eco-friendly products, I also wanted to minimize the number of items coming into our home. There are so many things that people tell you that you need for your baby. Much of it is completely unnecessary.
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Toxic Chemicals To Look Out For
Much like kids’ plastic toys, traditional nursery furniture and bedding can be full of harmful chemicals that can put your indoor air quality and health at risk. From the commonly-used polyurethane foam to heavy metals like Lead, Chromium, and Cadmium.
Many studies have named these hazardous substances as known carcinogens. So if you want to eliminate health concerns, take a look at the most common chemicals in child’s nursery furniture, ahead.
– Flame Retardants
Since the 1970s, flame radiants have been used in kid’s furniture to reduce the risk of residential fires. While they are pretty effective, these flame-retardant chemicals can release toxic fumes and silently contaminate our indoor air quality. This exposure can lead to cancer, thyroid disease, decreased fertility, lower IQ, and other harmful health effects. As a new parent, you can do your own research on the products you already have in your home. But just to give you an idea, these chemical flame retardants can be found in a baby’s nursery in the form of foam, upholstery, mattresses, carpets, curtains, and fabric blinds.
– Volatile Organic Compounds or Volatile Organic Chemicals (VOC)
The most well-known harmful chemicals are Volatile Organic Compounds. These hazardous substances are emitted as gases and cause numerous health concerns like headaches, nausea, or dizziness.
Off-gassing mostly occurs in brand new furniture. Children’s furniture can often off-gas for months or years without noticeable fumes. These known carcinogens thrive in small spaces with high heat and humidity. Cabinetry, office desks, sofas, closets, carpeted floors, and even kids’ plastic toys are the most common sources of VOC.
Formaldehyde is a highly flammable, strong-smelling, naturally occurring organic compound that has no color. This harmful chemical can cause irritation of the skin, eyes, nose, and throat. However, long time exposure can cause severe health issues as
Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen. Sadly, it can be found in many pressed-wood furniture in the form of glues and adhesives as well as in conventional paints.
– Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)
You might have heard of Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC or Vinyl) numerous times before. It’s a high-strength thermoplastic material that contains numerous hazardous chemicals, including phthalates, lead, cadmium, and/or organotins, that can stunt child development. It can leach out or evaporate into the air over time.
From nursery furniture to tables, chairs, bed frames, benches, couches, flooring, and bookshelves, PVC and its heavy metals can be found in indoor and outdoor furniture alike.
Bisphenol A is an under-the-radar toxic substance that can cause severe health effects on the brain and prostate gland of fetuses, infants, and children. In addition, much research was done on the ways BPA can affect children’s behavior and its link to type 2 diabetes.
Unfortunately, this chemical is often used in baby furniture, baby products, and feminine hygiene – personal care products. At the end of the day, if an item is made of plastic, there is a pretty good chance BPA is involved.
While organic baby care products do not contain BPA, many traditional options do, so opt for all-natural and organic whenever possible.
The List: 10 Tips To A Non-Toxic Nursery
1. Solid Wood Crib
When it comes to your baby’s non-toxic nursery, organic materials are the best way to ensure that no toxic fumes end up polluting your air quality. Unsurprisingly, composite and engineered woods may be a bit more affordable, but they can contain numerous hazardous chemicals. That’s exactly why solid wood construction is always a better choice than plastic or particle board options.
The good news is that plenty of non-toxic nursery furniture options are not chemically treated. The safest options to consider are natural solid wood construction such as pine, poplar, beech, and walnut. Make sure that they have a 100% VOC-free or low-VOC finish. This wood crib is a great option!
Side note: always look closely at the brand’s certifications and safety standards. Many ethical brands offer eco-friendly crib options that are also GREENGUARD gold certified, ensuring very low emissions. The best part? Almost all of them have some convertible crib to toddler bed choices as well.
Organic glues formed from naturally occurring substances and low-VOC paints that are new baby-safe should also be a top priority when it comes to high-quality child’s nursery furniture.
2. Natural Bassinet
Like every other piece of furniture in your baby’s room, bassinets can also contain chemical flame retardants, polyurethane foam, and other potentially harmful substances.
Opting for a natural bassinet made from sustainably sourced beechwood or rattan are both great options for your non-toxic nursery. While furniture and products made from natural materials often have less affordable prices, many popular brands offer options that can be converted into a toddler bed as well! This way, you are getting more for your money.
3. Non-Toxic Crib Mattress
Did you know that many mattresses (including baby crib ones) are often made of petroleum-based polyurethane foams? These mattresses can contain vinyl waterproofing, chemical adhesives, and incredibly toxic flame retardants.
Avocado Green Mattress is different. Each material they use is ethically made and sustainably sourced. When I started planning out Hazel’s baby room, I knew I wanted her to have an Avocado Green Mattress just like we do so that we could all rest easy. They have three great crib mattresses to choose from, the Eco-Organic Crib Mattress, Organic Crib Mattress, and the Luxury Organic Crib Mattress. All three are great, non-toxic options for your little one.
Each material used in their mattresses is certified organic, including cotton, wool, flax pads, coco-fiber, and latex. Of course, the brand has a lew of options for adult full-size beds, so you might want to look at those too.
You might wonder why I chose a non-toxic mattress containing wool when I would typically avoid animal byproducts. I chatted with them about this internal struggle, not wanting a mattress that contains wool but also knowing that their crib mattress was the best eco-friendly option available.
After talking with them about their 180,000 Gaddi Sheep that provide their organic wool, they are the only company I know of that I am happy to purchase wool-containing products from. Their sheep roam free on almost 4,000 acres (40,000 hectares) on northern India’s foothills of the Himalayas.
They are humanely sheered twice a year and left to roam free and be the best sheep they can be for the rest of the year. Simply speaking, the issue that vegans usually have with wool doesn’t apply to Avocado Green Mattress’s happy sheep.
You can learn more here about their Gadi sheep and wonderful shepherds. Hazel has been sleeping through the night on her Luxury Organic Crib Mattress since she was about five months old.
Let’s not sugarcoat it; if you see bed sheets and blankets labeled as “wrinkle-free”, they are finished with a chemical process. The worst part is that children are more prone to toxin absorption than adults, and since bedding is the one thing that constantly comes in contact with their skin, organic fabrics should always be preferred.
Luckily, there are plenty of good choices on the market for organic bedding that’s free from formaldehyde, AZO dyes, Alidicarb, and Parathion. Along with the best organic mattresses, you can opt for organic cotton crib sheets. Bamboo and hemp are excellent choices for your toxic-free nursery.
Why do these fabrics belong in your perfect crib checklist? Apart from being mold resistant and antimicrobial, organic cotton is all-natural, making it gentle and kinder to a baby’s skin. On top of that, it’s a great option for temperature control as it permits better aeration and will keep them cool thought the night.
Interested in detoxing other areas of your home? This blog post, 5 Ways To Detox Your Home, can help you with that!
Hemp absorbs sweat surprisingly quickly, which is a great option for the summer months because it can help regulate your baby’s body temperature. This organic fabric is also untreated, ensuring no harmful chemicals will come in contact with your baby’s skin.
Bamboo is hypoallergenic, making bamboo crib sheets a great idea for kids prone to skin allergies.
5. Sustainably Made Glider or Rocker
As always, finding sustainably made furniture is ideal. Often an alternative is furniture made from particleboard which can contain added chemicals like formaldehyde. (It’s best for your health to avoid this.)
Throughout my pregnancy, I always thought, “Why would I need a rocker/glider?” Jon and I are not minimalists by any means, but at the same time, we like to be purposeful with anything we bring into our home. At some point, I came to my senses, though, and realized that a glider would be incredibly helpful.
I started my search for a non-toxic one. I stumbled upon Monte Design gliders and fell in love with the Como in Sand. Monte’s furniture is all hand-crafted in Canada using sustainable materials. Their furniture is also flame-retardant-free, which is incredibly important, especially for babies. Also, I feel pretty strongly that furniture shouldn’t have ‘ingredients’. Right!?
6. Natural Wood Dresser
Changing tables are often made from cheap materials and therefore don’t last as long, inevitably creating more waste. A well-made solid wood changing table can last for years, but often, babies will want to transition to a standing diaper change around one year of age. (Some transition a bit earlier, some later.) This makes your use for a changing table short-lived.
Alternatively, a nice real wood dresser will last for years and be useful. It’s a win-win! A solid wood dresser in the short term can be more expensive, but long term, it is less costly. In an effort to cut down on your carbon footprint and save money, wood dressers can easily be found at second-hand stores.
To use a dresser as a changing table simply add a non-toxic changing pad to the top. This is a great option for your non-toxic nursery, and it’s eco-friendly!
7. Changing Pad
We previously mentioned the slew of chemicals that can be found in PVC. Well, most traditional changing pads are made of, you guessed it, vinyl – which often contains phthalates and heavy metals. On top of that, BPA and flame-retardant chemicals are also present. In most cases, they also contain polyurethane foam.
That’s why an organic changing pad is perhaps the most important item in your new parent-arsenal. Most options are waterproof, featuring a surface made from sugarcane which is the healthiest material. Another good idea is opting for pads with GOTS-certified organic cotton filling. While it’s not necessary, take a moment to look for the GREENGUARD gold certification as well.
An eco-friendly, cost-saving option could be to purchase a secondhand changing pad that may not meet the above criteria but get organic cotton covers. This way, the material that is touching your baby is non-toxic.
8. Non-Toxic Paint
As soon as you open a can of conventional paint, toxic fumes are released which contain the dreadful chemicals mentioned above – with VOCs being the most prominent. Conventional paint will continue to off-gas for up to three and a half years.
9. Eco-Friendly Play Mat
It’s a universal truth that most play mats contain PVC- the most toxic form of plastic. And because babies spend a lot of getting in direct contact with them, no one could really blame you if you decide to add a toxic-free play mat to your baby shower gift list – just saying.
You can choose play mats made from natural latex foam, cotton, or bamboo. If your home is carpeted or you have area rugs you may opt to simply use a small quilt instead.
This one is especially aggravating, but children’s toys are known for containing harmful chemicals. Much like play mats and bedding, toys come in direct contact with the skin, and in most cases, babies spend some time chewing on them, making the whole situation 10 times worse.
Studies have found high levels of cadmium and lead in kids’ toys. As a new parent, it’s best to keep an eye out for safe alternatives that are free from phthalates and bisphenol A.
Plush toys made with 100% certified organic cotton, natural and untreated wooden toys, and bath toys made of natural rubber are all great alternatives to traditional toys.
Conclusion: Your Non-Toxic Nursery
I know this list may seem daunting, but you’ve got this! If you’re on a tight budget, buy a new crib mattress and bedding. Then, buy everything else second-hand.
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