If you haven’t read PART ONE, you might want to start there. Now for the non toxic good stuff. Furniture. I love interior design. My mother is an interior designer, and it is in my very DNA to be affected by the aesthetics of a room. A nursery should be a place of peace, whimsy, joy, fun and love. I was so worried that I wouldn’t be able to create the room I wanted while keeping everything clean and green. I am happy to say that it is totally possible to have a nursery that is vibrant beautiful AND completely clean and safe.
Let’s start with the crib and mattress. To me the crib and mattress are two of the most important purchases you will make because your baby will be spending around 12 hours a day with their little faces pressed up against it breathing anything and everything that the mattress and crib are made of. Here is the place where you want to make the necessary investment to get the safest and most non toxic materials possible. First up, the mattress. Most if not all conventional mattresses are treated with flame retardants. Flame Retardants are very dangerous chemicals that by law had to be added to mattresses and furniture up until recently. An old and outdated law required this because of the flammability of the foam that mattresses are made of. The most dangerous of these chemicals are called Brominated and Chlorinated Flame retardants. Flame retardants are also added to children’s sleepwear if you can believe that, we will get to that in part three. These Polybrominated biphenyl esters or PBDE’s, linger in fat. They have been found in children’s bodies in much higher concentration than adults and they are in breast milk. PBDE’s are endocrine disruptors affecting normal hormone development and function, they also affect the nervous system and are carcinogenic. These chemicals don’t bond to whatever material they are added too. Rather, slowly over time they are released into the air and end up in your household dust where it is breathed in, or in the case of babies, they crawl around on the floor and put everything into their mouths that has this dangerous dust on it. PBDE’s have been banned in Europe for some time, and are slowly being phased out in the US, but they are still everywhere. The organophosphate chemicals being used as the newer class of flame retardants are not much better. So this is all to say that a flame retardant free mattress should be a NON-NEGOTIABLE for every parent. To really help you understand the significance of this, here is an excerpt from an article that ran in the NEW YORK TIMES
Researchers from the Center for Children’s Environmental Health, at Columbia University, measured a class of flame retardants known as polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs, in the umbilical-cord blood of 210 New York women and then followed their children’s neurological development over time. They found that those with the highest levels of prenatal exposure to flame retardants scored an average of five points lower on I.Q. tests than the children with lower exposures, an impact similar to the effect of lead exposure in early life. “If you’re a kid who is at the low end of the I.Q. spectrum, five points can make the difference between being in a special-ed class or being able to graduate from high school,” says Julie Herbstman, the study’s author.
And before you worry about fire, it has been shown now that these flame retardants don’t even make a difference. Here is a great article on it if you would like to know more. The best way to avoid them is to get an organic mattress. Organic mattresses cannot contain them and are usually made from materials like natural rubber latex and wool, the latter being naturally flame retardant so no chemicals are needed. If you cannot afford an organic mattress (they are a bit pricer) you can look for a conventional one that has no flame retardants. The old law was called TB-117. If the mattress has a tag on it that says TB-117 then it contains flame retardants. In 2013 the law changed so that companies only had to pass a “smolder” test, allowing them to get around using chemicals, so a tag reading TB-117 2013 means that it may or MAY NOT have flame retardants. You could contact the manufacturer to be sure. This is the mattress that I got by Lifekind. There are also great ones by Naturepedic. This is possibly the most important purchase of the whole nursery. I opted for an organic changing pad as well by naturepedic that you can find here.
Now the crib. There are so many choices these days for cribs but a lot of them have varnishes, finishes and paint that all emit VOC’s. If you baby is anything like my little one, once teething really kicks in, they will think of their crib as one giant teething toy. Therefore it is so important that you only get a crib that has a non toxic finish. A lot of companies claim that they do but upon further investigation it turns out that their paints and finishes are actually LOW VOC, and therefore still off gassing chemicals into your baby’s nursery, and certainly not something you would want them to ingest. The other issue is that most cribs are made out of some form of pressed particle board or MDF as opposed to solid wood. This particle board is loaded with formaldehyde containing glue to hold the particles together, which off gasses terrible carcinogenic volatile compounds. So the very best option is SOLID WOOD that has no finish, or has a natural oil finish where they rub the wood with non toxic linseed or tung oil. The one I opted for is this one by KALON. It is solid unfinished Maple. It is my favorite crib of all of the cribs I looked at (including the unhealthy ones) because of its simple modern incredibly chic design. Unfortunately there aren’t a lot of options for solid wood cribs with non toxic finishes, and the few that exist, like this one and this one, are on the expensive side. So here is a great affordable option from IKEA! The Sniglar is made from solid wood and is unfinished. I happen to love the unfinished look, but if you wanted something more polished you could use Tung oil for a non toxic finish, or even paint it with zero VOC non toxic milk paints that would be safe for baby. God love the Swedish for mass producing a healthy affordable crib!
The same flame retardant rules that apply to mattresses apply to furniture. When I was doing my nursery, there were fewer options because the law had just changed and most companies hadn’t phased out flame retardants yet. I opted for a glider from MONTE DESIGN. They are based in Canada and only use solid wood, formaldehyde free adhesives and flame retardant free foam in the construction of their non toxic products. Another option is VIESSO. A more affordable option would be to get an unfinished wood rocker or a finished one that has already done its off gassing, or go for a vintage rocker such as THIS. Also, ROOM and BOARD have phased out all flame retardants so that is another option, but the frame is engineered hardwood which would have formaldehyde containing glue. But if you are new to this and only looking to take baby steps, getting rid of flame retardants is priority.
A great way to avoid off gassing and flame retardants, and at the same time be extra kind to our great earth is to upcycle. Any Furniture built before 1975 is free of flame retardants. I wouldn’t recommend mattresses or cribs (they may not be to standard and could possibly have lead paint), but rocking chairs (check the paint), arm chairs and sofas are safe. Upcycling is a way to reduce waste that will eventually end up in a landfill. For our changing table we purchased the changing trunk from KALON, and placed atop an old table that we no longer used that happened to be the perfect size for it. It saved us money and allowed us to repurpose something we otherwise didn’t have much use for. I chose this changing trunk because when we are done needing it, it converts to a bench for the child with a drawer for storing toys. So it get’s upcycled as well! Since we opted not to purchase a dresser for the nursery, we use non toxic natural fiber woven baskets LIKE THESE with undyed cotton liners for her clothes. These also work great as storage for things like toys and burp cloths. I will go further into the accessories of the room, and some other great ways to keep baby and nursery clean, green, and serene in Part Three. Stay tuned!