I always find it astounding the amount of pregnant women who, during their nesting, end up creating a far more toxic environment for their newborn baby than what they had to begin with.
Many people may not know it, but indoor air pollution is actually worse than outdoor air pollution, in fact 2 to 10 times as worse depending on the materials in your home. There are many materials in your home that can omit Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s) into the air that you are breathing.VOC’s include a variety of chemicals, some of which have long term adverse health effects, including liver, kidney and central nervous system damage and cancer, according to the EPA.
Here is a list of some of the indoor air pollutants that became a concern to me when I was pregnant and how you can help to avoid adding more of them into your home, just in time for your new baby!
Paint: You don’t just have to be worried about old lead paint, you also need to be worried about the brand new fresh paint you are putting on your walls. Paint, paint strippers, varnish removers and floor stains all emit VOC’s into the air. What most people don’t realize is that these chemicals don’t go away once the paint has dried or once it stops smelling, these chemicals are in the air that you breathe long after the smell is gone, in fact for up to two years.
What I would do: Buy non-VOC paint. It is not as expensive as it used to be! Having a husband as a contractor means I shop construction materials quite a bit. The best deal that I have found in my area is the Sherwin Williams Harmony line of paint. I do get a contractor’s discount but I think it is somewhere around $40/gallon retail. It is great quality, low/no smell and non-VOC! Sherwin Williams can also match any color so just bring in a sample or chip of the paint color you want matched, I’ve even had them match the color of a floor sample I liked. They will match it on the spot and you should be out of the store within 20 minutes… if there’s not a line!
New Flooring: Whether it’s new carpet, wood floors or even linoleum flooring, you want to be careful of what you are putting into your home. Most traditional flooring materials off-gas VOC’s, so make sure you buy green.
What I would do: Some of my favorite products are Marmoleum flooring, a linoleum type floor (but far from the ugly linoleum from your childhood you are imagining in your head right now). It is produced from renewable materials such as linseed oil, rosins, wood flour and jute. My personal favorite color is Caribbean although there are tons of colors to choose from. You can visit Forbo to check out all of the colors. Wood flooring is a bit more complex because there are so many different kinds you can go with. There are also natural carpet options, cork and just a ton of other options. For more information, one of my favorite websites for green construction materials is The Green Home Guide. Check it out.
Household Cleaning Supplies: Many people are often surprised when I tell them that many of the household chemicals they think are good and keep their house clean are actually horrible for your health, bleach being one of the biggest offenders. In fact, the company Seventh Generation, which is the leading and fastest growing company for natural home products, was founded after the owner’s son was hospitalized for an asthma attack at the age of 10 and his doctor confirmed that the asthma was caused 100% by environmental factors.
What I would do: I would remove all of these chemicals and start replacing them with natural ones, especially bleach. There is currently a Clorox commercial where they show parents how to wash their infant’s toys in diluted Clorox to make them safe! It makes me want to barf. If you love your bleach try Seventh Generation Non-Chlorine Bleach. Bounce and other dryer towels have formaldehyde in them; try Trader Joe’s lavender bags or Seventh Generation Dryer Sheets with no formaldehyde. My favorite every day household cleaners are Method. My favorite scent is cucumber and my second favorite is pink grapefruit.
Furniture: If you are planning on having your baby sleep in a crib, think twice before you buy a conventional mattress for your baby, they are covered in very toxic flame retardants as well as vinyl covered ones have PVC. Unfortunately I wish the answer was as easy as telling you to buy an organic mattress but it’s not. Treehugger.com has been a great resource to me for years and a very trustworthy source of information. Click here to read their article on the truth behind mattresses. Another option besides buying a new mattress is to buy a used one, which has already off-gassed most of its chemicals so it is less toxic. People always think I’m crazy when I tell them I’d take a used mattress any day over a new one. You may think that sounds gross, but not as gross as breathing in flame retardants all night.
In addition to changing out the products you are currently using and being aware of the products you are putting into your home, you can also use plants to detoxify the air in your home. Here is anarticle from eartheasy.com in which they very clearly and concisely explain a study done by NASA a few years back in which they reported the top 10 plants for removing indoor toxins.
There are so many other nesting cautions that I’m sure I will be adding to the blog as they come to my head, but if you have any questions on things that you are worried about or products you want more information on, or suggestions on green alternatives, just e-mail me any questions you may have and I will do my best to get answers if I don’t already know.
Photo from Bryce Wylde.