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A Healthy Home for Baby

Posted on: July 30th, 2015 by Peter Sierck No Comments

A Healthy Home for Baby

Expecting a child is a joy filled, exciting and demanding time in a parent’s life. It’s a time of change not only for a prospective parent, but also for their home. Specific preparations and renovations are required to provide the best environment for the baby’s arrival.

While many gifts will be provided at showers, you can anticipate that additional items will still be needed. Typically, everything is brand new and still originally wrapped or in boxes to make sure that the baby will get the best and the newest items. The nursery will have new furniture, new paint, new flooring, new bedding, clothing and curtains – it will mimic a beautifully decorated show room in a furniture store and it may also smells that way: that recognizable, slight chemical-like odor of a lot of brand new items.

During late pregnancy and when children are small, we typically spend more time in the indoor environment. In order to truly create the best and healthiest environment for an infant, ET&T suggests you give consideration to hazards not visible to the naked eye. For example, utilizing PID on-site diagnostic devices (photo-ionization detector), we have measured multiple nurseries and detected much higher TVOC levels (Total Volatile Organic Compounds) in the sensitive nursery environment as compared to the rest of the living quarters. At times, the levels were equal to the levels detected in the garage or garden shed where chemicals, such as pesticides and paints were actually stored.

One airborne pollutant that can be part of the chemical cocktail present in nurseries is Formaldehyde ( It is used in many manufacturing processes and can cause eye, nose and throat irritations. Through our experience, we have measured significant levels of formaldehyde off-gassing from foam mattresses, changing table pads, furniture and flooring. Other chemicals of concern are the SVOCs (Semi-Volatile Chemical Compounds). These compounds settle out of the air quickly and become part of the surface dust. Some SVOCs are found in materials which contain fire retardants (PBDEs – polybrominated diphenyl ethers and chlorinated akryl phosphates) and documented studies link them to developmental challenges, infertility, hormone disruption and more. This group includes fire retardants which were used in furniture, nursing pillows, car seats, carpets and clothing until January of 2014. They are present in house dust and are either inhaled or ingested, putting toddles that are playing and crawling on the floor at a high risk.

Plastic toys, bottles, food containers and play mats are other sources of chemicals contaminants that may create an exposure to little ones through contact with food, water and house dust. BPA (Bisphenol A), phthalates and PVC introduced in unsafe levels can mimic the hormone estrogen and cause adverse consequences to health ( ). Our babies and toddlers are the most vulnerable population and testing for indoor toxins is an early and invaluable investment in the long term well being of our children

In addition to chemicals, there are environmental stressors that we can prudently avoid simply through placement and management. EMFs (extremely low frequency AC-magnetic fields) and interior RFs (radio frequency fields) are emitted from many electrical devices that are commonly used in our homes. Elevated AC-magnetic fields have been linked to childhood leukemia in several studies but this is still debated within the scientific community ( ). Due to the uncertainty and pending literature, prudent avoidance is the safest route. AC-magnetic fields may be present from the service drop, circuit breaker panels or local distribution lines entering the nursery through the walls. Baby monitors, while conveniently helpful to parents, need to be carefully located in order to mitigate their RF effects.

Other sources of RF exposure which can affect babies (even while in the womb) are mobile phones placed or used nearby. According to a study from Yale University, radiation from wireless devices can have non-thermal, biological effects on humans, including DNA strand breaks and other impacts not previously known ( ). Fortunately, EMF fields and RF radiation can be managed with a professional audit of your devices that measures, evaluates risk and makes recommendations for optimum placement.

In storage areas and around the outside of your home, herbicides and pesticides may be present. Insects and weeds are best controlled by a utilizing a Management Program and avoiding the generalized “kill it all” spray schedule, used by many professional exterminators and landscapers. Non-toxic alternatives are readily available on the market and can provide remedies specific to your needs.

There are many things you can do to prevent or limit the environmental stressors that you and your loved ones might be exposed to. Your baby may be blissfully unaware of your decorating efforts and loving intentions but the effort to control toxins will give you peace of mind and give him/her an excellent start in life.

The following list is provided to assist you in achieving a healthy home:

  • Choose zero VOC water based paint for the remodel of the nursery (and throughout the house). If you decide to strip down paint coats, please consider the age of the home as buildings constructed before 1979 may contain paint with high lead content.
  • Avoid flooring materials that are suspected of or known to emit chemicals. If you decide to install new flooring, chose a natural less toxic material and install it early enough that it has a chance to “off-gas” harmful chemicals.
  • Pregnant women and small children should not participate in any of the remodeling work or be exposed to the generated dust or odors.
  • Solid wood furniture contains less glues and is less likely to off-gas formaldehyde or other VOCs. The recommended surface finishes are acrylic water based, which create the least odors, and waxed or oiled finishes.
  • Avoid pads and furniture containing polyurethane and fire retardants. Buy untreated products produced before 2005 or after 2014 – the best choices are untreated products made of natural fibers such as certified organic cotton and wool.
  • New bedding, clothing and curtains should be laundered prior to placing them in the nursery.
  • Avoid plastic products such as bottles, containers and toys that are not labeled “BPA free”. Limit the use of canned foods. Best is to convert over to glass and high quality stainless steel containers for all food storage.
  • Buy natural and chemical-free products and toys whenever possible – for example: BPA-free plastic toys may still contain EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate) or items labeled PVC free might still contain phthalates.
  • It is a good idea to check the manufacturer’s online recall list and the government’s official recall site to verify you are using materials that have not been found to be defective.
  • Place the crib adjacent to a wall that does not have refrigerators, electrical service drops or other electrical appliances on the other side. Consider a professional EMF evaluation for best placement.
  • Purchase baby monitors that are activated by motion and sounds sensors. Place them at the furthest possible distance from the crib. Wired devices emit less RF radiation. Consider an RF evaluation for best placement.
  • Avoid using your mobile phone near the baby. Do not place the mobile phone, cordless phone, or other devices at their charging stations in the vicinity of the baby’s crib or play area.
  • Avoid scheduled pesticide applications – consult with a licensed pest control expert on low toxicity alternatives.
  • To make your home less attractive to roaches, ants and rodents, take the trash out frequently and do not leave food out.
  • Have professional drying performed after a flood or consult with a mold professional if you suspect or discover mold in your home.
  • Choose natural, low and non-toxic cleaning products, steam cleaners and filtered vacuums (i.e. H.E.P.A. Filtration). Organic and chemical free products, especially for the young, have become a booming industry and there is a variety of excellent products available at reasonable costs (personal care products, laundry and dish detergent, cleansers, lotions, foods, etc.).

The above list is not intended to be complete or include all potential hazards in the environment of a small child. Good websites to visit that include valuable child-specific information are:                                                             ;; ;; and .

Should you have any questions or would like to discuss your indoor environmental concerns or schedule an on-site evaluation, please call us at 760-804-9400.

Written By Felix Neumann


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