Paint is a notorious irritant for people with sensitivities as many paints have a strong odour which contain harmful Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and other chemicals. Paint fumes and chemical additives can linger in the air and baby’s systems are especially vulnerable and sensitive!
When shopping for paint for baby’s room look for one that has zero VOC, and free of alkylphenol ethoxylates (APE) which are endocrine disruptors. In addition, avoid paints marketed as ‘antimicrobial’ as these paints typically contain extra preservatives that are unnecessary in addition to having no standards for efficacy.
One example could be Benjamin Moore Eco Spec Paint. It is a great option as it is green seal verified and certified asthma and allergy friendly by the ASTHMA AND ALLERGY FOUNDATION OF AMERICA. It also has zero VOCs, zero VOC colorants, and is APE free. This paint can be used for the ceiling too.
Preparation is essential in reducing chemicals in the baby’s room. If you are pregnant, ask a friend or partner to do the painting for you, as exposure to paint fumes is not good for the development of the baby. Exposure to paint fumes isn’t good for anyone really, so when preparing to paint the room; have all the windows and doors open with a fan running towards a window to create a cross ventilation in order to remove paint fumes from the room. Make sure the paint can is securely closed when not being used to further reduce paint fume emissions. Never store paints in your living space. And another tip; wear a painter’s mask! This is another great step to prevent the inhalation of paint fumes and reduce chemical irritation. When finished painting, allow for a sufficient amount of time to air the room out. This can take anywhere from 24 to 72 hours, depending on the brand’s recommendations.
Flooring is another commonly updated item in renovations. If planning on installing new flooring, avoid carpeting. This is the worst choice for a space intended to be chemical-free; the synthetic fibers are constantly kicked-up into the air and inhaled. Carpets require heavy-duty glues to be installed, that contain toxic chemical compounds and generally have strong noxious odours that linger in the air for months following installation. A carpet can off-gas VOCs for up to six years. Instead, opt for a solid wood, pre-varnished floor. These are easier to clean, do not trap dust and other allergens as easily, do not require chemical stain-resistance treatments or chemical cleaning and generally do not contain toxic flame retardants. Buy made in Canada. Check all ingredients. Do not use floating floors, bamboo, engineered wood. If you have to build a sub-floor, use formaldehyde-free plywood.
Furniture is something else to consider in a baby’s environment. As babies sleep the majority of the time as they develop, they will no doubt spend a significant amount of time on their mattress. Choosing the right mattress is important. Crib mattresses are generally composed of polyurethane foam, a petroleum-derived synthetic material. And they often contain adhesives and other chemical additives. The foam core is usually enveloped with a waterproof cover. These mattress components can release harmful VOCs, some of which can cause respiratory and nervous system damage.
It is recommended to look at mattresses with organic fibers like wool or cotton rather than synthetic ones like polyester, and avoid mattresses that have been sprayed by chemical flame retardants! The same can be said for other furniture going into the baby’s room, prefer organic material over synthetic for fabrics on chairs or curtains and avoid anything chemically treated, for example, with moth proofing chemicals, fire retardants, stain resistance compounds etc. For solid furniture, opt for solid wood pieces, stainless steel or other metals, glass or ceramic pieces. Generally, try to avoid synthetic materials or pieces that use a lot of glues in construction as most glues tend to be formaldehyde based and thus cause a chemical exposure.
Lead and Asbestos, be on the lookout for toxic building materials like these when renovating any part of your home but especially the nursery. Lead was commonly found in paint in older homes, so proper attention and consideration should be paid when starting a renovation. Similarly, popcorn ceilings, a popular feature of homes built between the 1950s up until the 1990s often contains asbestos and is extremely hazardous to human health. Drywalling and many types of flooring also commonly contained asbestos. Thus, personal protective equipment’s such as gloves, masks and safety glasses, ventilation and professional expertise should be used when approaching projects involving any of these concerns.
Statistics Canada. (2021). ASEQ-EHAQ. Retrieved December 9, 2021, from