Your Baby’s Nursery – The health impacts of ‘Keeping Up With The Joneses’

Written by admin on March 1, 2011. Posted in Healthy Home, Toxic Nursery

For many people’s pregnancy journey part of the fun is preparing the nursery to welcome their new baby home. This often involves a “fresh” coat of paint, new curtains, some “nice” new furniture (cot, change table, rocking chair, toy box, bookcase and maybe even new carpet and colourful rugs). The problem is these purchases are anything but fresh or nice.  Your nursery will be a toxic hotpot during this time. All of these items are certain to release toxic chemicals from their glues, wood, fabric treatment, particleboard, paints, wood stains etc and it can take 12 months (and more) for off-gassing to reach safe levels inside that room. (See article “Your House is a Toxic Soup“) It is imperative not to furnish your baby’s nursery in this fashion or if necessary buy everything well in advance of baby’s arrival (9 months at least and let all the purchases air in a well ventilated room or clean garage).

For baby’s health all the room really needs is to be clean – free of dust, mould and mildew. Walls can often be freshened up with a good wash down with sugar soap (available from hardware stores and supermarkets), curtains washed and the carpet steam-cleaned (well ahead of time as this has it’s own hazards). If the nursery must be painted, try to have it done asap in the pregnancy (and not by the pregnant mother!) with Low VOC paint and kept well ventilated till baby arrives.

If you can lay your hands on good second-hand furniture they are GOLD purchases. There’s definitely a stigma around using another child’s cot for your own. Parents want to buy “the best” for their baby but don’t realise they really aren’t buying ‘best’ for their baby by purchasing all new highly toxic items. Second hand furniture has had time to off-gas noxious and dangerous chemicals and are ideal for a nursery. Always check the ACCC product safety requirements to make sure what you are considering purchasing doesn’t pose a danger to your baby’s safety. The “best” for your baby is to buy second hand items in top condition with no structural or operational damage and ensure there has been no recall advice for the item you’re considering. Visit the above link to learn more.

The biggest hurdle is resisting the temptation to renovate old furniture with a new stain or coat of paint as it negates the benefits of buying Pre-Loved furniture – the reduction of toxic chemicals. If the furniture or flooring must be bought brand new try to have it all completed early in the pregnancy or ensure the baby sleeps elsewhere for the first few months while the paint/lacquers/particleboard/glues all offgas. The Nursery will definitely be a toxic hotpot for at least a year and if it’s winter and the windows stay closed it will have severe health impacts on your baby and yourself. Moreso your baby due to their size. See article “Your House is a Toxic Soup” referring to Clause 6.4 “The higher risk to children is a result of their higher metabolic rate, higher intake of airborne pollutants and lower resilience, resulting in a two to four times higher absorption rate (Gilbert and Black 2000)”

Your baby’s cot mattress should also be bought as early as possible and left in a spare room with the windows open or in a clean garage to off-gas for as long as possible before use. When pregnant I took our babies’ mattresses outside and unzipped them every day to air and brought them in at night. Even though we avoided mattresses with latex, foam or PVC components I still felt more comfortable doing this than not. We bought Airflow Innerspring mattresses for our twins. As it is not a dense mattress filled with layers of foam and latex (which was the point of buying it) it allows cool air within it so should be lined with a number of cotton blankets and a woolen underlay to ensure that baby doesn’t catch a chill in winter (and even in summer I believe it should have a cellular cotton blanket put down beneath the sheet). If you’ve ever been soft camping or stayed on a friend’s floor on an air bed you’ll know that when you sleep on cold air with no insulation beneath you no matter how many blankets you put on top of you, you’ll wake with the sorest bones of your life! Not to mention a sniffle. Babies need to be even better protected as their internal heating system is not fully functioning yet. (I have a story about a baby in a pram suffering from a parent’s neglect to notice their baby shivering on a hot day. See “The Weather – Baby Needs Your Attention to Detail“) So make sure your bub has adequate insulation under them if you buy an innerspring mattress.

In our babies’ room I didn’t paint the walls (we had them steam cleaned to remove any grime or dust particles), nor did I install new window dressings, adhere anything (decals or stickers) to the walls, put down any rugs, nor buy any brand new furniture. We thankfully have two wonderful friends who had twin girls themselves 6 years ago and still had a cot, change table and clothes to gift to us. (Thank you beautiful friends Dean & Amanda!) And we bought a second cot from ebay. But when it came to considering painting and ‘tarting’ up the room I decided against it (aside from some beautiful printed images as a visual stimulant for them, and now the girls’ vegetable paint canvas paintings and drawings). I am happy to say that not one plastic toy resides in their sleeping environment. They are all downstairs in the lounge area that I keep well ventilated every day. Some people may think “What a bore! No decorations in the baby’s room?” To me making sure their health is protected is my priority, not spec’ing it up with modern, fancy accessories and keeping up with the Joneses. That concept is absolutely ridiculous to me. I’m in no way a ‘hippy’ but I certainly care more about my kids than our image. There’s no point having a child’s room look ‘cool’ or ‘chic’ only to develop a cancer or condition of some sort early in life due to the copious amounts of air toxics in their home environment.

The insanity of keeping up with the Joneses - A toxic hotpot

I have gleaned excerpts from the Australian Government website and article Air Toxics and Indoor Air Quality highlighting 28 Priority Air Toxics found in the home but urge you to read the full factsheets or if time-poor, read 3 areas ‘Common Uses’, ‘Consumer Products that may contain X’ and ‘Health Effects’ or visit my full article at Your House is Toxic Soup.

For your ease of reference I compiled information from the factsheets of the Australian Government’s 28 Priority Air Toxics found in the home in relation to common consumer goods found in a baby’s nursery.

Formaldehyde in furniture and carpets (Irritates eyes, nose and throat, causes skin & lung allergies, throat spasms, fluid on the lungs, eye & skin burns, asthma-like allergies, and repeated exposure causes bronchitis. Known Human Carcinogen);
Lead used in the manufacture of plastics, rubbers & metals, it is in pigments, dyes, paints and coatings and is a flame retardants for plastics (Bad news for everyone. Damage to brain, kidneys, reproductive organs, mood changes, disturbed sleep, premature birth weight and miscarriages, decreased intelligence scores, slow growth, learning difficulties and defective hearing. Known Human Carcinogen);
Methyl ethyl ketone in paint primers and undercoats (affects the nervous system & the brain);
Phthalates or DEHP in PVC products such as toys, mattress protectors, vinyl upholsery, adhesives and coatings (possible Endocrine disrupter);
Styrene in the backing of carpets (affects the central nervous system causing depression, concentration problems, muscle weakness, fatigue, unsteadiness, nauseous. It also affects the respiratory system and is an ear/nose/throat irritant. Possible Human Carcinogen);
Toluene in paints, inks, dye, household painting and lacquer removal, coatings, particleboards, solvent thinned products (ie primers, interior stains, clear finish, wood office furniture and vinyl flooring)
Toluene-2,4-diisocyanate from polyurethane coatings and polyurethane cushions and pads. Possible Human Carcinogen)
VOCs are emitted from some fabrics, carpets, fibreboard, plastic products, glues and solvents, some spray packs and some printed material, paints, varnishes and wax. The rate of emission may decrease over time as the volatile components are depleted. General effects of lower concentrations include eye, nose and throat irritation; headaches; loss of coordination; nausea; and damage to the liver, kidneys and central nervous system. Some VOCs can cause cancer in animals; some are suspected or known to cause cancer in humans. Build-ups of VOCs in indoor environments have been associated with ‘sick building syndrome’.)

Australian Government website – Indoor Air Quality in the Home, School, Office and other areas

As you’ve no doubt gathered I’m pretty passionate about this subject and willing to spend time to help other parents become aware of the dangers of everyday consumer goods affecting their family’s health. Please if this subject interests you, do some more research and make changes in your life to exclude as many things as possible that are harming your kids every second of every day they breathe the air in your home.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Trackback from your site.

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.