The Non-Toxic Nursery
Your baby’s environment is important his or her development and we all take plenty of care to ensure our children live somewhere stimulating and aesthetically pleasing. Often the décor of the nursery is chosen and completed long before the baby is born but are you truly aware of how toxic some common materials are, and how easy they are to put in your child’s nursery? With a little planning you can create an environment for your baby as beautiful as they are that is safe for them, and for the environment.
Creating a non-toxic nursery from the ground up can be a satisfying endeavor and it need not cramp your style or cost an exorbitant amount as eco-friendly and natural products become more available. Here are a few pointers to help direct you to the many choices there are to create the perfect natural nursery.
Hardwood floors are the best idea for non-toxic flooring. They are natural, can be bought from sustainable resources, great for keeping clean, but also for allergies. If you lay new boards and have to seal them make sure you use a water based varnish as they emit less VOC’s (volatile organic compounds) which are harmful for the environment. These VOC’s can linger in the air even when the varnish is dry.
Carpet is a cheaper solution but has many more harmful VOC gasses that continue to leech out of material all its life. This is called ‘off gassing’. If you have to install a carpet, coat it with an environmentally safe sealer which is applied like a carpet shampoo, but locks in the VOC’s to stop off gassing.
Another environmentally friendly floor covering is … the one you already have! If it is a carpet the amount off gassing will be less, but a coat of sealer will reduce it further, and wood floors can be sanded and varnished and come up like new. By reusing your old floor you are keeping waste material out of land fill and creating the ultimate in recycling. If the floor is not exactly as you like it you can always buy an all-natural, un dyed rug made out of wool and create the same atmosphere for much less cost to you – and the environment.
One of the quickest ways to change the look of a room is to give it a coat of paint. Your baby’s room will look completely personalized after you introduce a new color, but make sure the paint you choose is labelled as non-toxic if possible, not just low or zero VOC. Although paint does off gas during its lifetime, VOC’s are not the only harmful chemicals it contains. Non-toxic paint comes in almost every color and can be mixed to create the color you want, meaning you do not have to compromise your style to play it safe.
If you want to decorate the walls further stay away from vinyl decals. They are made from petroleum based plastics and will furiously off gas during its lifetime. Opt for painting a mural in non-toxic paint or go to your local thrift store and buy old picture frames you can make into wall art by painting and altering to match the room.
Whatever style you have chosen, you will be able to find an eco-friendly option for your nursery. The most important piece of furniture in the room should be your baby’s crib, so pay attention to what you are choosing make sure it is finished in a non-toxic paint or varnish (it won’t be long before it is being sucked and chewed on a daily basis) and made from sustainable materials. A great way to go green is to upcycle an old crib from another family member just make sure it is safe in every way possible, both for your baby and for the environment.
Baby changing tables can be repurposed from old dressers and drawers, and bookcases can be painted to match the room. Use natural materials such as cotton for the fabrics which have natural dyes used to create the patterns. These can be coordinated for the drapes, blinds and upholstered baby changing station.
If you choose to renovate pre loved furniture yourself, make sure that you get someone else to do the sanding as you never know what dangers there are in old paint and varnish.
There are very stringent laws on the fire retardant qualities of crib and bassinette mattresses and most of them encourage the use of harmful chemicals to meet the criteria. These chemicals off gas for longer than the mattress has a useful life and your baby will be lying on it for a period of years, many hours every day. These chemicals have been linked to allergies and asthma, or worse, and there are no legal requirements to make them of natural compounds. There are non-toxic, organic crib mattresses available which utilize natural latex, wool and organic cotton, all of which are naturally fire retardant and don’t require additional treatment so look out for them to make sure your baby can sleep safely at night.
Organic baby bedding is becoming widely available at many mainstream stores. This is absolutely FANTASTIC as the designs are fresh and funky bringing eco-friendly styling right up to date. There is a non-toxic, organic alternative to every item of your baby’s bedding as well as crib bumpers, skirts and diaper stackers. This makes sure that your baby has a non-toxic environment to grow up in that is as unique and adorable as they are.
Designing and decorating your baby’s room is an exciting time, and by taking into account all of these different aspects of the nursery where you can maximise the green qualities, you can create the perfect environment for a healthy baby, and a healthy environment.