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Creating Safe Indoor Air for Your Baby

Aug 30, 2008
The American Lung Association says that breathing problems are the number one cause of death in babies less than a year old. Babies are particularly vulnerable to biological and chemical pollutants and special care should be taken when decorating your home, especially the baby's room.

Wall Treatments
Use paints and finishes that provide the least amount of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) for the baby to breathe in. Paint first and allow the room to air out before adding soft materials like bedding and carpet that can absorb toxins. Even something like a small mural should use low-VOC paints.

Avoid wall coverings made of vinyl, which often gives off very dangerous dioxins. Although paper wall coverings are a good choice, you need to use a low-VOC adhesive and be sure there is no moisture underneath the paper to encourage mold growth.

Wood paneling isn't an ideal choice as many wood panels release formaldehyde. If you wish to use it, air the paneling out before hand to get rid of most of the VOCs, then seal it with a low-VOC product to reduce further emissions.

Floor Treatments
Tile, wood and linoleum are the best choices for the floor of the nursery. If you are concerned about these hard surfaces, use washable area rugs of wool or cotton to create softer areas.

Carpet is home to dust mites and mold so is not ideal. If you prefer carpet, avoid synthetics and opt for low pile wool carpet instead. Always look at the Carpet Rug Institute's indoor air quality label. Air out the unrolled carpet before installation, then air out the room for several days after it is in place.

Window Treatments
Avoid window blinds made from PVC, another material that gives off dioxins not to mention it is not recyclable or reusable. Window blinds made from cotton, metal or wood are healthier choices as these products have lower emissions.

Bamboo window blinds are not only attractive and have no dangerous emissions, but they use a rapidly renewable resource so are one of the most environmentally friendly materials you can find.

Although not related to air quality, the other important issue with window blinds involves the danger of dangling cords. Although today's window blinds are much safer than they were in the past, it's best to choose cordless blinds in the baby's room.

Other Furnishings and Toys
As the recent lead-contaminated toy scare has shown, you can't assume that just because something is made for children, like cribs and toys, means it is safe for children.

A lot of baby furniture is made of pressed wood that emits formaldehyde. If you can afford it, use only solid wood furniture that uses a low-VOC finish. If such products are out of your price range, then seal the pressed wood to limit outgassing.

Children's toys today are almost universally made out of plastic. Studies have shown that the harder the plastic, the fewer emissions it gives off. Avoid anything that smells like plastic; that plastic smell is made up of the dangerous chemicals you are trying to avoid.
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