Posts Tagged ‘Formaldehyde’

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

Written by admin on March 1st, 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.

Your House is a Toxic Soup

Written by admin on February 11th, 2011. Posted in Healthy Home, Toxic Nursery

Unless you live out in the wilderness with not a scrap of production line man-made furniture, carpet, paint, curtains/blinds, soft furnishings or you live in an eco-designed and diligently sourced organically furnished and finished house, you’re living in a silent toxic soup. Even the clothes on your back and the food on your plate are impacting your health.

The community at large scratch their heads and wonder but more hopefully, suspiciously question, why the cancer (and to a lesser extent, asthma) rates are so high in this day and age. Some say that incidences of cancer have always been like this, it’s just that we have better testing for it now. Open your eyes! The Australian Government website has an extensive “State of Knowledge Report” on Air Toxics and Indoor Quality in Australia which is extensive in it’s information. I have gleaned some areas that I think should be highlighted, especially for indoor air quality with regard to infant and children’s health and safety. Not to mention your own.

There are 28 priority air toxic pollutants in our homes today. Not out in the atmosphere over industrial plants or in the ‘big cities’. IN OUR HOMES. 28 acknowledged air toxic pollutants listed by the Government as priority safety concerns. (Definition: The NHMRC defines indoor air as any non-industrial indoor space where a person spends a period of an hour or more in any day. This can include the office, classroom, motor vehicle, shopping centre, hospital and home.) Here is the “28 Most Un-Wanted” list at paragraph 5.3 Priority Air Toxic Pollutants – recommended list. Now, this roll call of slightly familiar sounding words is meaningless unless you know their health effects. Read their Factsheets outlining  common uses, likely sources, and health & environmental effects. Also paragraph 1.1 Community concerns (excerpt “Exposure to air toxics can affect health, with effects ranging from none, through mild and immediate (eg watery eyes), to more extreme (eg lung damage, nervous system damage or even birth defects and cancer). The extent to which these adverse effects present themselves depends on a number of factors such as the type of air toxic to which a person is exposed and the length and severity of the exposure.“)

Formaldehyde was predominantly the reason for my research. I was already very aware of pressed wood products such as couches (framework, but also fabric), dining tables & chairs, bookshelves, kitchen cabinets and benchtops and a swathe of other household furniture containing glue with Formaldehyde, a known human carcinogen. Mainly because I hated the smells I experienced walking through ‘cheap’ furniture stores I sought to find out what it was. You need not Google too far to find that there are a lot of complaints out there regarding eye, nose, throat, chest and breathing difficulties after buying a new piece of ‘cheap’ furniture. Here’s one example of a man’s new purchase of a simple, unassuming bookshelf from a major retailer going horribly wrong. I’m guessing his story is similar to a lot of experiences in Australia and around the world but most don’t dedicate a website to finding out more and reaching out to others who have had similar experiences.

In his extensive correspondence with the ‘retailer’ he very correctly summarises the very real concerns for babies sleeping in a nursery filled with brand new furniture for their arrival. “Formaldehyde can cause serious health problems, particularly in those too young to complain, e.g. babies who might have such furniture in their bedrooms and yet sleep there night after night, being unable to communicate that they feel ill.

Excerpt “We can better understand ageing if we realise that the formaldehyde emission is typically due to two processes, with both of those processes declining as the sample ages. Initially, much of the formaldehyde emission is due to the release of trapped formaldehyde – that emission falls as the trapped formaldehyde is used up. When the trapped formaldehyde has gone, emission of formaldehyde that is produced by chemical reactions continues – that process declines more slowly. The net effect is that as the product ages, the formaldehyde emission falls initially comparatively rapidly, then later more slowly, but never quite reaches zero. The timescale involved is typically a matter of months or years.” This is my primary reason for stating in article Hand me Downs “Old is Gold!” Buy second hand and the majority of outgassing will have already taken place.

Unfortunately formaldehyde is not just in our furniture, it’s used in darn near everything. We are exposed in nearly every facet of our daily lives from the treatment of seeds of the plants we eat, chicken and cattle for parasites to the glue in our furniture (particleboard in our couches, desks, tables, tv cabinets, bookshelves etc) and surface coatings, to the petrol in our cars, to the dyes in our clothes and permanent press items, skin disinfectants, mouth washes, spermicides…the list really goes ON and ON and ON. I have included it below for your ease of reference. I’m floored by the extensive areas Formaldehyde is utilised intentionally in our society. It’s absolute insanity.

The factsheet for Formaldehyde shows why it the most recognised of all human carcinogens littered throughout our everyday lives. It’s everywhere. It’s common uses, method of exposure, effects on our health, the environment and it’s animals is extracted below. I urge your to read it and view your world ‘wide-eyed’ when you next head out shopping for that new couch that’s soooo affordable you just HAVE to have it.

Or even more concerning, plan to paint your new baby’s nursery walls, buy a brand new cot, change table, chest of drawers, toy chest, put up new curtains, lay new carpet, buy a new rug and a swathe of ‘flame retardant/low fire danger’ PBDE doused clothing for the arrival of your precious baby. Think twice about everything you put in your baby’s room and on their bodies! Buy organic clothing for them the first 6 months of life. They aren’t even crawling till that age so fancy coloured clothing and shoes are really unnecessary till later on.

Clause 6.4 Sensitive Sections in the Community (excerpt “Significant proportions of the population have a greater sensitivity to pollutants. These commonly include newborns, young children, the elderly, heart patients, those with bronchitis, asthma, hayfever or emphysema, and smokers. These population sectors will be at greatest risk from pollutant exposures and, according to the Allergy, Sensitivity, Environmental Health Association (1998), deserve ‘special consideration’. 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)…. Exposure to environmental toxics (not necessarily airborne) has been suggested as one of a number of factors which may be associated with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, attention deficit disorder and, to a lesser extent, chronic fatigue syndrome. However, the causes of these disorders are poorly understood, and it is not currently possible to make any definitive statements about their possible links to airborne pollutants.

If you are unable to attain ‘source emission control’ (ie. avoiding cheap products such as pressed wood furniture; couches, tables, chairs, kitchen kits, carpets and rugs etc) thereby sourcing healthier materials/purchases for your household, then at the very, very least you can take steps to improve your indoor air quality.The simpliest thing you can do to ‘improve’ your indoor air quality is ensure your home is well ventilated every single day. If you have air conditioning and the weather is hot, it’s tempting not to. But even for an hour or two, open the doors and windows completely and let fresh air and in condensed old air out. Remember that while your house is shut up through the night you and your children are breathing these toxic air pollutants listed by the Australian Government. Minimise your purchase of new furniture by buying 2nd hand goods from Ebay and the like. Definitely avoid brand new purchases for your baby’s nursery and if you can’t afford organic or human & environmentally friendly purchases “Old is Gold“.

Introduction para 6.1Despite the long periods we spend indoors, relatively little research has been done on the quality of air in our homes, schools, recreational buildings, restaurants, public buildings and offices or inside cars. In recent years, comparative risk studies performed by the US EPA and its Science Advisory Board have consistently ranked indoor air pollution among the top five environmental risks to public health.

At clause 6.2 Indoor Air Pollutants there is also the much bigger list capturing things like dust mites, tobacco smoke, acetone, ethyl acetate etc and clause 6.3 Health effects as a result of exposure to pollutants (Excerpt “The occupants of buildings with poor indoor air quality can suffer from severe effects (asthma, allergic response, cancer risk) to mild and generally non-specific symptoms. Some health effects may show up years after exposure has occurred or only after long or repeated periods of exposure, and thus can be characterised as long-term health effects. These effects, which include respiratory diseases and cancer, can be severely debilitating or fatal. Long-term health effects are associated with indoor air pollutants such as radon, asbestos, and environmental tobacco smoke.“.

In addition to the Priority Air Toxic Pollutants, Clause 7.1 Broad Categories and Sources for Indoor Air Pollutants.Sources of indoor air pollutants include building operations and construction materials, household products, external factors and various human indoor activities.

Broad Categories and Sources of Indoor Air Pollutants Clause 7.2 Criteria pollutants in the indoor environment (Excerpt “Table 7.2 summarises the main indoor air pollutants, their important sources and typical concentration ranges, as well as some possible responses.“) It then goes on at 7.2.1 to list all of the air pollutants such as Nitrogen Dioxide, Lead, Radon, VOC’s and Formaldehyde.

I’m no expert. I’m still learning every day about pollutants in the furniture we buy, the consumer products we use and the food we eat. But I’m searching for knowledge. For the sake of you and your family, I hope you do too.

In my research travels I’ve come across some interesting articles on this topic of toxic exposure in our homes, food, environment, our bodies and ultimately what should be most sacred and protected of all…our breastmilk. I’ll comment on these as I find the time. I’m currently enjoying the challenge of raising two very beautiful, very active (and slightly whingey!) 19 month old girls. Please join my site to join in the conversation and share your own experiences!

The Age: Furnishings Key to Infertility?

7:30 Report: Tests Confirm Alarming Contaminant Levels in Food

Slow Death by Rubber Duck

The Story of Stuff