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It’s called the “nesting instinct”—that sudden urge to tidy, purge, organize and decorate. But getting your home ready for your newborn isn’t just about putting together the crib and washing all those teeny tiny clothes. It also means hunting down the hidden hazardous chemicals that have been shown to affect your baby’s growth and development. Think of it as environmental babyproofing.
To help you get started, here’s a room-by-room checklist for getting toxins out of the home, so you and your baby will have the best space to grow in.
Paint: While chemicals like bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates get more press, one of the most toxic substances in the home is as old as the Earth itself. Lead, used in paint before 1978, can damage your child’s developing brain; scientists believe there is no safe exposure level.
If you live in an older building, contact your state lead poisoning prevention program to have your paint tested, particularly if you notice any flaking or peeling (they can also help you decide how to abate the hazard).
When painting, ask for paints and finishes with low or no volatile organic compounds (VOCs) to keep neurotoxic and carcinogenic compounds, such as benzene, toluene and formaldehyde, out of the air you and your baby breathe.
Baby Products: Flame retardants can be found in baby gear, such as crib mattresses, changing table pads, glider cushions, sleeping wedges, strollers, car seats and even nursing pillows—anything containing polyurethane foam. (This type of foam may contain flame retardants thanks to Technical Bulletin 117, an obscure California regulation that is complied with nationwide.)
Studies show that flame retardant chemicals migrate into the dust around us, which then gets swallowed when we touch our mouths or eat— babies are particularly vulnerable because they put everything into their mouths. Exposure to the compounds has been linked to lowered IQs, learning delays, cancer and reproductive problems.
While labels don’t always tell the whole story, avoid products with tags that say they comply with California’s Technical Bulletin 117 and say no thanks to foam- filled hand-me-downs.
The good news: California is in the process of revising its regulation and many companies that produce baby gear have already taken flame retardants out of their products, including Britax, Boppy, BabyLuxe, BabyBjörn, graco and Orbit.