After coming across Debra Lynn Dadd’s amazing book, Home Safe Home, we decided to ask her to share her expertise on creating a safe and non-toxic nursery. Debra has been a leading authority on eliminating toxic chemicals in the home since self-publishing the first book on the subject in 1982.
She has simply and effectively broken down the major key elements that will help you create the healthiest environment for your little loved one’s nursery.
Here they are, thanks Debra Lynn Dadd!
The Nontoxic Nursery: Safe Surroundings for Your Newborn
My friend had her first baby last year. Since her husband is not the handy type, she asked my husband and I to help them design the nursery and then do all the work to make it both adorable and nontoxic for their son. So I write this from first-hand experience.
It would be ideal to have everything in a newborn’s nursery to be best for the environment in every way-after all, we want to give him or her a wonderful world to grow up in. But if limitation of time or resources makes it necessary for you choose the top priorities, the most important aspect of green for a newborn is to reduce exposure to toxic chemicals as much as possible.
With all good intentions, most new parents prepare for their newborn baby by redecorating a room into a nursery. New paint, new carpet, a crib with a new mattress, new bedding, plastic toys, little clothes…all look cute, but are full of toxic chemicals that may do your baby more harm than good.
It is especially important that newborns have a nontoxic nursery because they spend most of their life in the nursery-an average of 16 to 17 hours a day. The volume of their respirations per pound weight is twice those of an adult, so their exposure to any toxic substance is twice what yours and mine would be in the same room. And because nurseries are often small, any emissions from materials become more concentrated than they would be in a larger room.
The immune systems of newborns are not yet fully developed, making it difficult for their little bodies to process exposures to toxic chemicals. These chemicals can also damage the immune system during development, leading to a lifetime of disability.
Creating a nontoxic nursery gets your child off to a healthy start. Today, there are plenty of options for creating safe surroundings for your newborn.
Safe Paint for the Nursery
If you are pregnant, do not paint the room yourself. Scraping or sanding the walls may expose you and to lead dust, which can be very dangerous to your baby, and toxic chemicals in the paint can be harmful as well. Have someone else–husband, family, friend, or hired hand–paint with one of the new water-based low-VOC paints that are available from all of the major paint manufacturers. Painting should be done at least a month before the baby is due, and it can be cured by using a room space heater.
Even if the baby will not occupy the nursery immediately it’s best to have it ready before the baby arrives in the home. You don’t want to be painting with a newborn in the house.
We painted the walls of Cole’s room a light straw color, and the ceiling sky blue with white clouds. Laura asked if we could put up an animal wallpaper border. I checked it out, and even though it had a plastic coating, it had no odor and went up easily after simply dipping it in water.
Safe Floor Covering for the Nursery
I would absolutely stay away from new carpeting as it is very toxic. Better to just leave whatever flooring is already there and clean it well. If you have to put down new flooring, my number one choice would be natural linoleum. It provides a solid, durable, colorful, attractive surface that is easy to clean. And it will continue to be a good floor surface as your child grows.
Linoleum is made primarily from linseed oil, pine rosin, sawdust, cork dust, limestone, and jute and contains no plasticizers and no chlorine.
Safe Window Covering for the Nursery
Your baby will spend many hours sleeping, and at times will need the room to be dark and peaceful during the day.
We put up cotton curtains, but you also might want to consider wooden shutters (with a nontoxic paint or finish) or aluminum mini-blinds that will allow you to adjust the light as needed.
100% Cotton Curtains available from Ikea.com for $ 19.99 (Machine washable)
A Non-Toxic and Safe Crib
This is your baby’s “home” and needs to be as pure as possible in every way. Choose real wood, natural finishes, and untreated pure cotton and wool, preferably organically grown. While these more natural products will be more expensive, it is an excellent investment in your child’s wellbeing and will probably reduce future health problems and medical bills. Try to stay away from the particleboard, plywood, vinyl coatings, and synthetic fibers (such as acrylic and polyester) with easy-care formaldehyde finishes that are found in most baby stores. You can order everything for a complete natural and organic nursery on the internet.
Safe and Non-Toxic Baby Toys
Most toys sold in major toy stores are made from plastics. Plastic is a major contributor to indoor air pollution, and a roomful of new toys can easily envelop your child in a toxic cloud. Remember that synthetic fibers are plastics, too, so evaluate stuffed animals carefully.
While you might not find much that is natural in a toy store, there are many natural cloth and wood toys on the internet. Many are designed to stimulate baby’s imagination and help them learn skills as well as provide amusement.
Proper Ventilation for a Non-Toxic Nursery
Be sure to provide good ventilation in the nursery, and at the same time watch out for drafts. Newborns need to be kept warm, but they also need fresh air. Ventilation will also help flush out any toxic chemicals you weren’t able to remove at the source.
Maintaining and Cleaning your Non-toxic Nursery
Once you have a nontoxic nursery, keep it safe by using only natural and nontoxic cleaning products and pest controls. Control odors by keeping things clean and removing soiled diapers rather than spraying air fresheners.
Use Your Own Common Sense
It may not always be possible to determine which materials are used in nursery products, or their safety, but there is one tool you have that you can rely on to evaluate any product–your nose. If you can smell it, it probably contains something toxic you don’t want your baby to breathe (with the exception, of course, of natural fragrances). If it bothers you, it will bother your baby, so don’t put it in the nursery.
Nature has endowed parents with both the desire and ability to care for a child. By tapping into your own wisdom, and knowing what to look for in products, you can make choice that will give your newborn a great start.
|About Debra Lynn Dadd |
Debra Lynn Dadd is the author of Home Safe Home: Creating a Healthy Home Environment by Reducing Exposure to Toxic Household Products (Tarcher/Penguin 2004). Debra also publishes the online directory “Debra’s List,” which contains nearly 1000 links to nontoxic, natural and earthwise products, and the popular “Green Living Q&A” blog. Debra is a regular contributor to Ecological Home Ideas magazine, is a consultant to individuals and businesses, and lectures frequently.
Great non-toxic and eco-friendly products for your baby’s nursery:
Wee Gallery Wall Stickers
Made of eco-friendly Polypropylene. Quickly and easily create custom wallscapes with these oversized self-adhesive and removable wall graphics – just peel and stick! These patterns are fully removable and may be repositioned as needed with no damage to your wall.
Certified Organic Cotton Crib Set
Coyuchi’s certified organic cotton crib sheets and blankets are THE softest you’ll find! They are made from 100% certified organic fair trade cotton, and grown “by hand” on family farms in India.
Coyuchi’s crib fitted sheet (retails for $29), the embroidered crib blankets (retail for $96) and other bedding are available online at Coyuchi.com.
Read our detailed review here!
miYim’s Organic Plush Gift Set
This set includes an ultra-absorbent, natural colored organic cotton cloth with an adorable lamb face, a plush duck rattle/teether that stimulates baby’s senses and eases baby’s gums, and a small plush baby bunny toy. All items are completely natural, made with certified organic fabric and dyed using plants and minerals!
Small Farm Mobile from Bla Bla Kids
Unique Mobile made of 100% cotton. Machine washable.
Eco-friendly Cariboo Activity Gym
A gym and mobile in one!
Organic Cotton Contoured Changing Pad
Go all-organic with this organic fitted changing pad. It is the healthiest natural organic alternative to the typical, toxic PVC/vinyl changing table pads.