When new babies enter the house, you, your friends, and family may be on high alert. Everyone is constantly washing their hands and getting current on immunizations before seeing the baby.
You likely did some baby-proofing and may have decorated the baby’s room and added a new coat of paint. But, how often do you think about ensuring the nursery is a healthy and safe environment? Have you tested for volatile organic compound (VOC) and formaldehyde levels? According to a study by WECF, babies and small children are particularly sensitive to risks from these toxic chemicals and products.
This blog post is not to scare you, but to make you aware of some proactive steps you can take to make your home and your baby’s space more enjoyable for them (and you) by making it healthier. Here are five steps to make your baby nursery healthy and safe.
- Clear that air. Consider buying a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) air purifier. If you live in a city or near interstates where there are a lot of cars and trucks, the air is likely more polluted, so this step is even more important. Make sure to get a quiet air purifier so you don’t disrupt the baby’s sleep.
If you can, crack the windows in rooms adjacent to the baby’s room to get fresh air circulating. Remember to close the windows if the temperatures drastically drop.
As always, you can always add an air-filtering plant or two in the room. See this previous post for plant ideas. Of course, you’ll want to keep the plants in a place away from the baby’s reach.
- No smoking please. If you live in an apartment or in a house with smokers living nearby, kindly ask them to smoke somewhere far away from your baby’s room. (If not, check your tenant rules or neighborhood or city ordinances for recommendations on second-hand smoke.) It’s that serious; it’s not cool to puff carcinogenic air into a baby’s new lungs. Just ask WebMD.
- Also, a “no” to VOCs. With your good intentions and great decorating savvy, you may have put effort into creating a quiet and beautiful space for your new baby. Keep in mind that paint, carpets, furniture, and cleaning products often carry volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Most “off-gas,” which puts those toxic chemicals into the surrounding air. Off gassing from paint, for example, will continue to do so for years. Doesn’t sound good for your baby’s health? It’s not. Before you buy all these products, check with the store clerks for baby-friendly products and check the labels (and double check online) to see if they are “low” or “no” VOC. If you’ve already bought products with VOCs, try to phase them out of the baby’s room as time/expense allows.
- Alarms and checks. Check for radon, install a carbon monoxide detector and a smoke alarm, have an escape ladder. You want to be 100% confident that the baby’s room has a working smoke alarm, carbon monoxide detector, and an escape ladder. You can find smoke alarms with up to 10-year batteries now. But, you still want to check them. Also, we would highly recommend doing a radon test on your house. Often overlooked, radon is a colorless, odorless gas that can cause lung cancer. You can find all four at your local hardware or big box store. Combined, these will cost you around $170-$200, but you’ll be able to sleep better – new parents’ dream.
- Hire a Healthy Home Evaluator. For a deeper dive into ensuring your whole house is healthy and safe for your new baby, think about hiring a professional who focuses specifically on home health and safety (such as a BPI Healthy Home Evaluator). Why do we keep harping on finding one of these professionals? (Yes, we are biased; Healthy Home Evaluators hold a BPI professional certification.) They are some of the highest qualified and skilled home contracting professionals in the country. They can perform whole-house energy audits as well as inspect for mold, mildew, and contaminants, and use sophisticated tools for all these tests.
Lastly, if your baby is at a daycare or spends a lot of time at a relative’s house (it takes a village!), gently ask them to copy some of these steps, if they haven't already. Good luck!