When you’re expecting a baby, your life is not only filled with joy and excitement, it’s also filled with demands. During this time, not only is your life changing, your home will be to. You will need to prepare your home in order to provide the healthiest environment for this new addition to your family. There are many concerns you may not have considered, such as mold, chemicals, wireless frequencies, and more.
You may be anticipating plenty of gifts for your new baby showers, but you will also need other items. Most often, nearly everything for your baby will be brand-new in its original packaging. You may have new furniture, paint, bedding, clothing, and even curtains and flooring for the nursery. You may end up with the nursery that looks like a show room in a furniture store. Unfortunately, it will probably carry a recognizable chemical odor that comes with all of those new items.
During the latter part of pregnancy, and just after baby is born, new parents typically spend more time than usual indoors. To provide the healthiest environment for your baby you need to consider not just obvious hazards, but also those invisible to the eye. We have measured a number of nurseries using PID (photoionization detection) diagnostic devices and found levels of TVOC (total volatile organic compounds) to be significantly higher than the rest of the home. In some cases, these levels were as high as those found in garages and sheds were pesticides, paints, and other chemicals were stored.
Formaldehyde is a common airborne pollutant often found in nurseries. Formaldehyde is used in a number of manufacturing processes and can irritate the eyes, nose, and throat. Formaldehyde is often given off by foam mattresses, changing table pads, flooring, and furniture. Other chemicals often found in nurseries include SVOC (semivolatile chemical compounds). These compounds tend to settle into surface dust quickly. Some of these are found in fire retardant materials. Studies have linked these compounds to developmental delays, hormone disruptions, infertility, and more. Fire retardant materials containing these compounds are often used in furniture, nursing pillows, car seats, carpets, and clothing. They are found in the highest concentrations in dust that can be inhaled or ingested. This places babies and toddlers that play on the floor at highest risk.
Plastic items such as toys, play mats, food containers, and bottles can also contain chemicals that compose risks to small children through contact with dust, food, and water. Bisphenol A (BPA) phthalates, and PVC can all mimic estrogen in the body leading to serious health hazards. Due to their smaller size, babies and toddlers are most susceptible to these compounds. Early testing for indoor toxins can be a valuable investment in the health of your children.
Chemicals are not the only environmental stressors that need to be taken into consideration. Many common electrical devices emit EMFs (extremely low frequency magnetic fields) and radiofrequency fields. Some studies have linked these fields to leukemia, though these links are still being scientifically debated. However, due to the uncertainty of these studies, the safest route is to practice caution. Baby monitors can be quite convenient, but should be carefully located to minimize your baby’s exposure to these fields.
Radio frequencies given off by mobile phones can affect babies even before they are born. A study from Yale University showed that radiation from these devices can have a number of biological effects, including DNA breaks. EMF and radiofrequency radiation can be minimized with an audit of your devices. Such an audit will measure these fields, determine level of risk, and suggest optimum placement.
Many people store herbicides and pesticides in garden sheds and other outside storage areas. Your garden is better served by controlling insects and weeds with a targeted program rather than more generalized kill everything products. There are many non-toxic alternatives that can take care of your specific needs.
There is a lot that you can do to minimize exposure to environmental stressors. Your baby could care less about your decorating efforts, but your efforts to minimize toxins will set your mind at peace and give your baby a better start in life.
The following is a list of tips that can help you give your baby the healthiest start:
- Look for water-based paints with no volatile organic compounds when painting not just the nursery but the whole house. If you are removing coats of paint, you need to know when you’re home was built. Homes built prior to 1979 were often painted with lead-based paint.
- Look for flooring materials that do not emit chemicals. If you are installing new flooring look for natural materials containing less toxic materials. Also, the earlier you can install new flooring, the more harmful chemicals will be off gassed and dissipated before your baby arrives.
- Pregnant women should not help with remodeling. Pregnant women and small children should avoid being exposed to dust and odors generated by the remodeling process.
- Furniture made from solid wood will off gas less formaldehyde and other toxic compounds. Water-based acrylic surface finishes will produce fewer odors than wax or oil-based finishes.
- Steer clear of items containing polyurethane and fire retardants. The best bets are products manufactured prior to 2005 or after 2014. Look for untreated products made from natural fibers. If you can, look for certified organic cotton and wool.
- New bedding, clothing, curtains, and other fabrics should be washed before they go in the nursery.
- When buying plastic products, look for those labeled BPA free, and limit how much canned food you use. If you can, choose glass and stainless steel containers to store your food.
- Look for toys and other products that are natural and chemical free as often as possible. Even plastic toys that are BPA free may still contain ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA), while those labeled PVC free may still contain phthalates.
- Before making a major investment, check the manufacturer’s recall list as well as the governments recall site to be sure the items you are purchasing have not been found effective.
- Arrange the nursery so the crib is not next to a wall that has electrical appliances on the other side. You might even consider contacting a professional who can evaluate your home for EMFs to determine optimal furniture arrangement.
- If you buy a baby monitor, look for one that is activated by motion and sound, and place them as far as possible from the crib. Wireless devices give off more RF radiation than wired devices. In RF evaluation specialist can help you determine the best location for your monitor.
- Do not use your mobile phone or other device near your baby. Do not keep charging stations near the crib or play area.
- Minimize applications of pesticides. Talk to a licensed pest control expert about safer alternatives.
- Make your home less attractive to pests by taking out trash frequently, keeping food put away in sealed containers, and washing dishes frequently.
- If your home has had water damage, or you think you may have mold, contact a professional for removal.
- Look for natural, non-toxic, or less toxic cleaning products and look for a vacuum with HEPA filtration. Organic and non-toxic products, especially products for children, our growing industry. As a result there are now many great products that won’t break the bank.
For help with mold remediation in your San Diego home, call (619) 376-6838.