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Creating a Non-Toxic Nursery


Nursery: [nur-suh-ree] n. A room or area in a household set apart for the use of children.

You’re pregnant! A baby… ooh, a nursery!

Preparing your baby’s nursery can be a wonderful time of planning and dreaming. Designing a space for your new arrival is fun, personal, hopeful, and gives you a great outlet for all of those new “nesting” instincts that kick in!

Here are just a few things to think about to help you create a yummy, non-toxic environment for your little one.

First let’s get the technical info out of the way…


Why Babies Are More Vulnerable To Airborne Pollutants

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), babies and children may be more vulnerable to environmental exposures than adults for three reasons:

  •  Their bodies' internal systems are still developing.
  • They eat more, drink more, and breathe more in proportion to their body size.
  • Their behavior can expose them to more chemicals and organisms.

Volatile Organic Compounds, or VOCs, are toxic gas emissions linked to a host of health problems. According to the EPA, short-term exposure to VOCs can cause eye, nose, and throat irritation as well as headaches, loss of coordination, and nausea. Long-term exposure to VOCs has been known to cause damage to the liver, kidney, and the central nervous system, and even lead to cancer.

Babies’ exposure to indoor pollutants—such as allergens, smoke, VOCs, pesticides, chemical cleaners, radon, carbon monoxide, and lead—at such a young age can trigger dangerous health conditions. These may include allergies, asthma, other respiratory disorders, lead poisoning, radon poisoning, and even cancer, to name a few.


Ok, here’s the good part…



Traditional paint fumes often cause nausea and headaches. These are in reaction to the VOCs emitted.  If you’re painting, look for water-based paints with labels that say things like “biodegradable,” “phosphate-free” and, of course, “VOC-free.”

There are many!

Mythic Paint from Ace Hardware has no VOC and no toxic chemicals at all.

The paints in little YOLO’s Sprout Collection are non-toxic, gender-neutral, and washable (definite plus!).

Green Planet Paints are made with soy-based resins and zero VOC ingredients. The paint colors are created by hand with mineral pigments, creating a soft, organic clay finish.

You can also go for wallpaper! There are many beautiful options that are eco friendly. Find some here.

Do one wall, the whole room, or try fabric on the walls!



Like paint, carpet can contain VOC's. In addition, carpets contain other known allergens such as adhesives, stain protectors and flame retardants, all of which can cause respiratory problems.

The best alternative is to rip out the old carpet, and replace your floor with hardwood, tile or cork. None of these materials collect dust, and they can be easily cleaned. Washable area rugs are great for attractive coverings where desired.

If you have wood flooring under your existing carpet, paint it! Or invest in carpets made of natural fibers, such as organic cotton, hemp or wool. Look for fibers with vegetable dyes or no dyes at all. And tack the carpet to the floor, rather than using glue. Water-based adhesives and special glues with low VOCs are also available.



Furniture too, can come with icky and dangerous toxins. If and when purchasing a crib, think about these tips:

  • Buy a natural wood crib that does not have any sort of toxic finish.
  • Buy a recycled wood or “naked” crib and refinish it yourself.
  • Buy a natural wood crib made from wood that has been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.

These tips go for dressers, tables, and rockers as well.

Ouef NYC makes delicious designs, and you can find a ton of others at http://www.babyecotrends.com/

Scour Flea markets and Etsy for great green and original décor. Opt for organic bedding, an organic mattress (see prior blog post), and a HEPA air purifier in your nursery -- help remove tiny allergen particles and airborne chemicals from your baby's breathing space.

Check out these resources for more info.



Now go Nest like crazy, and send me a photo of your gorgeous eco nursery!

Not into DIY? Ecobaby planning+concierge can help you create the green nursery of your dreams. Just give us a shout!

As always, if you have your own question or comment, leave it here or email me directly. Check back next week to see if YOUR question was answered, or what issue we’re tackling next!

xoxo Melanie




photo: Melinda Bryant Photography 

Reader Comments (1)

And don't forget the most eco - friendly option of all, everyone snuggles in one bed. No redecorating required!

Jun 21, 2011 at 6:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterEmmalina
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