Building a Better, Greener Nursery: Tips to help parents create a healthy environment for their child

2602-41Parents go to great extremes to prepare for the arrival of a newborn baby. The laundry list of chores ranges from childproofing the home for safety, stocking the nursery with supplies, and skimming through a pile of “how-to” books and manuals. Each to-do item is prioritized with the same end result in mind—to create a nurturing environment that will support the overall development of a healthy and happy child.

Starting with the nursery, many parents begin by carefully considering a decorating scheme. For example, scientific studies attribute a distinct psychological significance to certain hues or color combinations (warm colors vs. cool colors) during the crucial stages of early development. In addition, many families now recognize that green living is healthy living, not just for Mother Earth, but also for their growing bundle of joy. Here are a few tips to get first-time moms and dads on the right track to greening up their nursery.

Decide on a hue (green is great for concentration and focus) and select a shade that is available in a low or zero-VOC paint. VOCs, or volatile organic compounds, which are found in many synthetic products, continuously off-gas toxins into the air for extended periods of time (we are talking years) and pollute the air your baby will breathe. Benjamin Moore’s Natura line uses a waterborne rather than a glycol-based colorant and is available in a range of different colors.

Wood floors are preferable, if possible, over carpeted floors. If you are planning to do a complete overhaul and install the flooring yourself, make sure to select wood that has not been treated with chemicals (laminate wood-like flooring is not an option). If the budget allows, bamboo and cork floors are a great choice and will hold up wonderfully as your child comes of age in his/her room. Both are renewable resources, and suberin, the basic substance of cork, discourages microbes and is moisture, fire, and insect resistant. Bamboo is also naturally antimicrobial. Carpet and rugs on the other hand are full of allergens and have a tendency to trap dust. If you absolutely have to feel a little fuzzy underfoot, look for untreated carpet or area rugs. These do not contain dyes, pesticides, or chemically based stain protectors—all of which emit VOCs into the air.

Buy organic everything—or at least prioritize a few items that your baby will be exposed to on a regular basis. Organic baby bedding is a good investment, even if you can’t afford to splurge on the organic furniture to match. Studies reveal approximately one-third of a pound of chemicals is used to produce a single 100% cotton shirt (these numbers vary a bit between findings, but overall, most agree that these chemicals are best avoided if at all possible). Pure cotton products are encouraged generally, but organic cotton items are chemical free—no bleach, no pesticides, and no toxic heavy metals. This is also true for baby clothing, toys, and accessories such as bath towels and bibs.

Despite our best efforts, it may not be possible to completely protect our loved ones (or ourselves) from everyday influences and environmental pollutants. Decide on a must-have green list, and then invest in a quality air purifier, preferably with a HEPA filter and activated military carbon, to help with the rest. Air purifiers work to filter out invisible particles of dust and pollen that may be lingering in the air. If you are also using a humidifier, remember to keep the water fresh and the components clean to avoid the build-up of allergen inducing mold.

Purchase solid wood or organic wood furniture. Pressed wood furniture contains toxic adhesives that hold the wood together. These synthetic glues emit formaldehyde and other VOCs. Try to find a crib that uses metal rather than plywood as the mattress support to eliminate even more VOCs in the air. Online sites such as EBay or Craig’s List are great places to find gently used baby items, or search out local consignment shops to locate affordable options. Typically, the older the furniture, the less VOCs there are left to emit, though how much less is difficult to gauge. Buying organic is always the best bet.

Use biodegradable, all natural cleaners to freshen up baby’s new room. Germs are the enemy, but harsh chemical compounds found in most household cleaners aren’t much better for the health of your child. Many natural cleaners on the market also employ the use of essential oils and naturally occurring fragrances that will leave the spotless space feeling and smelling wonderful.

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