You’ve got questions – Ali’s got answers! Welcome to the first installment of our “Ask Ali” series, featuring some of the questions we hear the most.
Q: With so much information in the media about potentially harmful materials found in children’s furniture, what should I look for to make sure I’m choosing the healthiest furniture for my nursery?
A: Good question! Of course you want your baby’s nursery to be as healthy as possible, so the furniture you choose is a great place to start. Follow the tips below when setting up your nursery, and for more information, check out my recent blog post about the difference between healthy, eco and green.
Look for non-toxic finishes.
Look for non-toxic paints and finishes with low or no VOCs (volatile organic compounds). If you’re buying wood furniture, make sure the coating is non-toxic. Look for natural finishes made with plant oils, tree resins, minerals, water and beeswax, or low or no-VOC finishes.
Just say no to formaldehyde.
Given our stringent safety standards, many manufacturers use a composite called MDF (manufactured wood products) for added strength and safety. Problem is, MDF can contain (though does not necessarily) extra formaldehyde that holds together the wood particles. Several studies have documented that formaldehyde increases the risk of asthma and other respiratory diseases, and it’s also a known carcinogen. If possible, look for formaldehyde-free particleboard that uses nontoxic glues – and be sure all components meet and exceed even the European emissions standards for toxicity.
Let furniture off-gas outside.
If you can’t find formaldehyde-free particleboard, take your furniture outside for some fresh air. Let it off-gas outside of the nursery – and preferably outside of the house – anywhere that there’s enough fresh air to dissipate the formaldehyde. You should leave it out at least a couple of days, but a couple of weeks or more is ideal. (But note, not all “new furniture odors” is necessarily toxic. With closed containers and cross-water shipping, even nontoxic and healthy sealants can often emit smells to the discerning nose.)
Let in some fresh air.
Since babies spend 90% of their time indoors, make sure to keep your home well ventilated. Opening windows and using fans will lower formaldehyde levels that are inevitable within today’s homes, regardless of your crib selection.
Higher temperatures and humidity increases the amount of formaldehyde released, so keep it cool in your home.