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The dangers of a new carpet in a nursery

When you are expecting a baby it is more than likely you’ll be planning the design and redecoration of your nursery to welcome this new addition to your family. However, many parents are unaware of a number of decorating factors that can facilitate significant health hazards. Seemingly safe furnishings such as carpet and laminate flooring, as well as the products used to clean and fit them, can contain chemicals that are harmful for expectant mothers and young children. At Eden Private Staff we have created the following guide to inform you about how to protect your new addition from these potential dangers.

Volatile Organic Compounds & How They Can Affect Your Child

Synthetic carpet fibres, laminate flooring, carpet glues and flooring adhesives contain high concentrations of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). These organic compounds are emitted as gases and can cause health problems such as eye and nose discomfort, throat irritation, allergic skin reactions, headaches, fatigue, dizziness and nausea. In fact, what many parents recognise as a ‘new carpet smell’ is actually evidence of these organic compounds. A clean, safe nursery should not smell at all.

It has been scientifically proven that young children are more susceptible than adults to the detrimental effects of these organic compounds. Extensive research by the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) and the St Georg Municipal Hospital suggests that refraining from redecorating nurseries during pregnancy or in the first year of your children’s life could prevent as many as 20,000 cases per year of infant respiratory illnesses. Dr. Ulrich Franck from the UFZ concluded that;

“We therefore do not recommend that laminate, carpet or floor coverings be laid in the homes of pregnant women. Although the concentrations of these volatile chemicals are lower if no adhesive is used when installing the flooring, even then the concentrations are still high enough to significantly increase the risk of infants suffering from respiratory complaints in their first few months”.

A similar study carried out in 2009 by the WECF organisation (Women in Europe for a Common Future) on indoor air quality across Europe investigated the level of formaldehyde and total VOCs in children’s bedrooms. Out of the families surveyed, the study revealed a staggering 40% presented levels that exceeded the EU health and safety levels. Sascha Gabizon, Executive Director of WECF, conveyed how;

“The result is worrying for infants especially when you realise that young children spend about 90 percent of the time indoors…pollutants such as formaldehyde and VOCs are often not recognizable and results show more and more that volatile organic compounds emitted during renovation and decoration of the nursery are responsible for allergies and eczema becoming more frequent”.

Newborn babies and infants are more susceptible to the adverse health effects of VOCs than adults because they are in an early stage of development and thus they have substantially smaller lungs. Subsequently, they inhale more pollutants per pound of their body weight than adults and are not able to detoxify these chemicals as efficiently. As Sunday Telegraph building expert Jeff Howell states;

“Health hazards caused by toxins are estimated in proportion to the body weight of the recipient…This means a newborn weighing four kilograms will be affected by a dose of contaminant chemical 20 times more than an adult weighing 80 kilograms”.

How To Protect Your Child From Airborne Pollutants

Despite the dangers of these VOCs there are several simple yet highly effective measures you can implement to protect your child. By following the safety guidelines outlined below you can ensure your nursery is a nurturing and healthy environment:

Decorate your nursery before your child is born: Decorate as early as possible to allow maximum time to ventilate the room before your baby is born. If your baby is already here, keep them in another room until that ‘new’ smell has dissipated. Furthermore, pregnant mothers should not enter the room before it is properly ventilated to avoid inhaling harmful toxins which will be automatically passed onto the baby through the placenta.

Extensively ventilate your nursery after decorating: As soon as you have laid new carpets or flooring, ventilate your nursery by opening windows and installing fans to circulate fresh air and remove any airborne contaminants or VOCs. You should only bring your baby into the room when you can no longer smell any artificial odours.

Research alternative flooring options: It is advised that you should avoid synthetic materials and investigate natural flooring such as wood, cork, tiles, bamboo or natural linoleum. Washable area rugs made from organic cotton, wool fibres, flexible vegetable fibres such as jute or grass fibres – sisal, coir or sea-grass are also healthy alternatives. All of these natural flooring options contain drastically fewer VOCs than synthetic fibre carpets or vinyl flooring and also retain less dirt, mould and dust mites.

Purchase a low VOC sealant: Having meticulously selected natural carpets or flooring for your nursery, you will still need to scrutinise the chemical components of the carpet adhesives and flooring sealants to ensure they do not contain polyurethane PVC or other harmful organic compounds. Endeavour to purchase an adhesive or sealant that is certified as reduced VOC or even non-VOC. Alternatively, you could use non-slip mats or tacks to eliminate the need for any glues or chemical finishes entirely. This attention to detail will ensure that your nursery floor remains VOC-free.

Choose non-toxic cleaning solutions: Using non-toxic cleaning solutions prevents dormant harmful particles from being released into your nursery’s atmosphere. You should ensure a low emitting oil, wax or water based emulsion is used to clean hard flooring and that a mild cleaning solution is used to clean carpets or rugs instead of a solvent based detergent.

Fundamentally, by exercising these safety precautions you can give your baby the best possible start in life. These safety measures will enable you to create a stylish yet safe nursery that supports your child’s mental and physiological development.

February 18, 2015

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