While in the past I have read a lot about healthy baby care products and eco-friendly clothes, I was quite surprised when learning about the potential harmful health impact of furniture and decorative items. Ever heard of VOCs?
Probably not. But you might have smelled them;-). VOC is an abbreviation for volatile organic compounds, that is chemicals (such as formaldehyde) which evaporate out of products and contribute to poor indoor air quality. Then there are the flame retardants – chemicals added to materials in order to slow or prevent the start or growth of fire. They can be found in, for example, mattresses, carpets, curtains and electronic devices.
Why are these problematic? Because they have been found to be toxic, causing endocrine and thyroid disruption and contributing to different diseases.
No need to despair though! Once again, read labels/ask questions and choose products made out of natural fibers, such as cotton or wool that are inherently flame resistant; furniture built from solid real wood with safe finishings (no formaldehyde); zero- or low- VOC paints; and carpets without any PFCs (manufactured compounds that are widely used to make products more resistant to stains, grease, and water). There are also some 3rd party certifications that can be of assistance, such as Greenguard, Oeko-Tex Standard 100, GOTS, and Green Seal.
Even if opting for furniture and baby room deco items with lower levels of harmful chemicals, it is still important to let them off-gas by leaving them outside of packaging in a well-ventilated space for as long as possible. So never bring a baby into a newly painted room full of new furniture.
Or even better – buy used or borrow. This way you do not need to worry about off-gassing at all. Flame retardants can be found in household dust so regular damp mopping and vacuuming with a high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter is recommended.
Be in touch if you would like to find out more on this topic.