Healthy Home Nesting for a Healthy Baby
This article is adapted from Safbaby.com, written by healthy home expert, Mary Cordaro.
You’re pregnant! Images of beautiful nurseries fill your head as your thoughts turn to how to prepare your home for your little one. Whether you are adding a new room, remodeling an existing space or simply painting and furnishing a room, you want it to be beautiful and perfect. You want the best for your baby.
But you wonder…can you trust the products you see, the ones labeled as “non-toxic”, “natural” or “safe” for baby?
EWG’s Baby Body Burden Study made it starkly clear that what the mother ingests, absorbs and inhales directly affects the fetus. In fact, nearly 287 chemicals were found in the cord blood, the majority being carcinogenic, neurotoxic and developmentally toxic. Until recently, the impact from chronic, extremely low-level exposure to these chemicals has not been clear.
Dr. Bruce Lanphear, MD, MPH, well-published expert on children’s environmental health, states “There is strong evidence that learning disabilities and lower IQ scores can be attributed to extremely low levels of exposure to toxic metals like lead and mercury, persistent toxins such as polychlorinated biphenyl (PCBs), and other toxins including organophosphate (OP) pesticides and compounds used as flame-retardants.” He concludes that thirty years of research led to the conclusion that chronic low-level exposure to these chemicals does matter.
The reality is that these chemicals are already in our homes. Remodeling and adding new furnishings, including many green products and materials, introduces more toxins, including odorless chemicals that never disappear.
So if you’re ready to make changes to your home now, I want to suggest that you wait! Here’s why: the fetus, newborn and small children are extremely vulnerable to toxic chemicals and other contaminants at levels well below what an adult can tolerate. And unfortunately, there are no green certifications and seals comprehensive enough for the health of the developing fetus or the newborn. Even materials that are truly green and healthy for an adult, can be taxing on a newborn’s delicate system when those materials are new.
Instead of spending your budget on adding new rooms, remodeling or creating a new nursery, I suggest making your home a safe haven for your family.
Toxic environmental contributors to address are: outdoor pollution (that comes indoors), lead, chemicals from building materials, interior furnishings that never go away, cleaning and personal products, mold and electromagnetic fields.
The Best Nursery For Your Newborn is a Healthy Home
Give your child the best chance for normal development by cleaning up existing contaminants in your home first.
- Replace All Toxic Household, Cleaning and Personal Products.
- Visit ewg.org for guidance on chemical-free laundry and cleaning products with the lowest toxicity, or make your own inexpensive cleaning products with non toxic ingredients, such as baking soda and distilled white vinegar. Find some DIY recipes.
- To reduce exposure to estrogen mimicking chemicals called plasticizers, replace your vinyl shower curtain and/or liner with a plasticizer-free version such mold resistant hemp or phthalate and chemical free nylon, polyethylene or polyester versions. Make sure the shower curtain is not treated with any antimicrobial chemicals. (Note: Don’t assume that PVC free EVA, or polyethylene vinyl acetate, is plasticizer free. It must be 100% plasticizer free.)
- Replace all food and beverage containers for eating, drinking and storage with glass versions and use stainless steel or ceramic baby feeding spoons. Replace plastic water bottles with glass bottles that come with an exterior protective silicon sleeve.
- Replace all products containing synthetic fragrance and antimicrobial chemicals, including candles, plug-ins, sprays and hand sanitizers with healthy versions: pure beeswax or GMO free soy candles, pure organic essential oil products (avoid citrus and pine if you live in high ozone/smog areas). Avoid hand and body wash products containing all toxic antimicrobial chemicals, which kill the “good bacteria” naturally occurring on your skin that kills microbes. Wash your hands with pure soap and water.
- Stop all pesticide use indoors and outdoors, and use only chemical-free pest control. For more information on non toxic pest control, go to PAN North America (Pesticide Action Network) and Beyond Pesticides.
- Don’t Just Replace – Remove!
Get all those toxic products out of the house. Low levels of toxic cleaning, personal, maintenance, pest control and other household products continue to contaminate your home from packages in cupboards and on shelves. Many conventional personal and cleaning need to be properly disposed at your local hazardous waste facility! For products you must keep, such as touch up paint, keep it in your garage as long as the garage is not used as a living space. Otherwise, place it in a separate shed.
- Control Dust to Reduce Toxic Odorless Chemicals and Particulates.
The quality of air in all homes includes a combination of highly toxic, odorless chemicals including organophosphate flame retardants, pesticides and estrogen-mimicking chemicals called phthalates from modern building materials, interior furnishings and consumer products. These chemicals, called “semi-volatile organic compounds” or SVOCs, never go away, and adhere to airborne house dust, which you and your child inhale and ingest. Also, children and pets live closer to the floor where house dust settles and SVOC contaminants are more highly concentrated. To effectively reduce chemicals in your house dust as well as allergens like pollen, and the heart and lung damaging ultra-fine particle chemicals from smog, try these important dust control steps:
- Buy an air tight HEPA vacuum floors and upholstered furniture frequently. But not all HEPA vacuums are worthy! Examples of brands include: Miele, Nilfisk and Electrolux.
- Place a HEPA filter in each bedroom and if possible, the most lived in rooms in the house. Visit: marycordaro.com for more information.
- Leave your shoes at the door. Outdoor shoes track in pesticides, bacteria and other toxins. This builds up on floors, but particularly wall-to-wall carpet.
- Check for Sources of Lead
According to the CDC, there is no safe lead level for children. The tiniest amount inhaled or ingested by a small child is associated with serious neurological and other health effects. If your home was built before 1978, and especially if you have peeling, chipping, dusting off or deteriorating interior or exterior paint, it is recommended to get a lead inspection by an EPA certified expert. For information on sources of lead, and to find a certified inspector, go to EPA/Lead. You can do your own quick lead screening with Lead Check Swabs which can be purchased at Lowes or other hardware stores.
- Check for Sources of Mold and Moisture
The developing fetus and newborn are particularly vulnerable to mold.
- Visit this EPA page for a primer on moisture and mold prevention.
- If you suspect or smell mold, get a mold inspection. Do not attempt to clean up mold yourself, even if it’s just on the surface, especially if you are pregnant or breast-feeding. Hire an IAQA certified, independent mold inspector to survey your home. If given a choice, pick an experienced inspector with additional training in “building science”. Find one here. Do not hire a mold remediation company for the inspection because it’s a conflict of interest. The independent inspector will do “clearance testing” once the remediation is complete. Insist that a mold remediation company uses no chemicals whatsoever.
- Reduce Sources of EMRs (Electro-Magnetic Radiation)
Toxic EMR is all around us. Although invisible, it is a physically real, measureable source of toxic contamination referred to as “electro-pollution”. Thousands of laboratory and population studies associate EMR from wireless and wired sources with serious health effects, including cancer. A recent study associated pregnant mice exposed to cell phone radiation with behavioral problems in their offspring. There are many measureable ways to reduce exposure to EMRs, listed in my article here: Mary Cordaro Reducing Electromagnetic Radiation from Wireless Sources from Cell Phones, Cell Antennas, Baby Monitors, Cordless Phones, Wi-Fi and Tablets. Top tips are:
- Limit cell phone use to emergency use only. Do not carry your cell phone on your body.
- When you’re at home, keep your cell phone at least 15 feet away from you and your children. The toxic EMR levels radiate out 15 feet from smart phones and tablets in standby mode!
- Replace cordless landline phones with corded phones.
- Turn off Wi-Fi, and instead, use Ethernet cables for your laptops and computers. Turn off Wi-Fi completely during sleep.
- Change Your Furnace Filter
Check your forced air heating and AC filter and change it at least 3 times a year, or as required. Make sure to purchase fiberglass free furnace filters. Look for a filter that is at least a MUVA 7.
- Control Dust Mites.
- Dust mite allergens may be irritating to skin and lungs. Even if you and your child are not allergic to dust mites, reducing the allergenic feces left behind by dust mites is a big step toward a healthy bedroom.
- Encase mattresses and bedding made with down, polyester, polyurethane foam, Dacron and even organic cotton batting (unless a layer of organic wool batting surrounds the organic cotton batting) with dust mite barrier covers that are phthalate-free, and are completely untreated with antimicrobial chemicals, silver, or any other permanent treatments.
- Wash sheets weekly in hot water, especially if anyone in your family is allergic to dust mites.
With so much work to do to get ready for baby, tackle these challenges first. They may not be as fun as picking paints and fabrics but they will do far more to ensure you’re your baby is safe, healthy and happy. Take it step by step and do whatever you can to ensure that your nest is the best.
Adapted from: http://www.safbaby.com/nesting-how-to-prepare-a-healthy-space-for-your-baby