Odds are your child's room is the most toxic room in your
The furniture is probably made with particle board-plywood held
together by glue that uses formaldehyde.
That brand new carpet, floor and paint are emitting volatile
organic compounds, often carbon-based molecules that vaporize into
the air and form ozone.
The baby bottles and plastic toys are leaching Bisphenol A,
which acts like estrogen and some studies say may interfere with
ovulation, reproduction and brain-cell development. The lotion and
sunscreen on the bassinette are filled with fragrances made with
phthalates, which are linked to birth defects, cancer and diseases
of the kidneys and liver. Your wee ones' jammies and mattresses are
infested with the flame retardant Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers
(PBDEs) that are potent neurotoxins.
"It's pretty scary when you first start looking into these
things," says Manda Aufochs Gillespie, otherwise known as the Green
Mama of Rogers Park (www.thegreenmama.com).
The air in your house is already at least five times less pure
than outdoor air, she says. At the same time, small children are
far more susceptible to the toxic air in a home; they breathe in 50
percent more air per pound of body weight than adults do, which
makes it harder for them to detoxify.
"Nurseries and playrooms are usually the first thing people
renovate when a new child is on the way," Gillespie says. "Yet
these renovations often come with an uncalculated cost to the
Gillespie and professional organizer Maureen Gainer Reilly host
workshops on how to house a clean, green and organized
Here are some likely candidates for eviction:
• Toss out toys made in China, Gillespie advises. That
should open up some shelf space. Eighty percent of all toys in the
U.S. are made in China, and all of the toys recently recalled for
dangerous lead levels were made in China, she says.
• Reduce the number of battery-operated toys because
batteries are sources of mercury, lead, cadmium and other dangerous
• Beware of plastic toys. If you do buy plastic, look for
safer ones, such as those labeled with a "2," "4" or "5." Avoid all
vinyl, sometimes labeled "3" or "V," though most PVC products are
not labeled. When in question, call the company or find a similar
product clearly labeled PVC-, lead- and phthalate-free, she
• Your dry cleaner uses perchloroethylene so purge dry
Fill the new space with hand-crafted toys made from natural
materials like wood and wool from small, reliable companies made in
countries with high standards of safety like those in Europe or the
Now that you have weeded out the bad toys and gotten your
playroom green, use natural, nontoxic products to clean up. Some of
the best cleaners are the safest and cheapest: baking soda,
vinegar, lemon and soap and water. Finally, create simple storage
systems that children can understand.
"Model these systems on school and you will get the same
behavior," Gainer Reilly says. "Children put things away at
Green virtual spaces
• Check on toy safety at
• Find green gift suggestions at
• Look for toy recalls at www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/prerel/category/toy.html.
• Get green parenting information at www.thegreenmama.com.
• Learn about ingredients of cosmetics, soaps, lotions and
• White distilled vinegar can disinfect, deodorize and
dissolve tarnish and gummy substances. It can be used for
everything from softening cotton diapers to cleaning your hardwood
• Lemon juice can cut through grease, lighten stains and
• Baking soda can eliminate odors and clean. It's good on
the sink, tub, oven and counter top. Sprinkle it on the carpet and
vacuum to remove odors. Clean drains by pouring ½ cup baking soda
down the drain, followed by 1 cup vinegar. Wait 15 minutes and then
pour hot water down.
• Borax can be used to kill mold. (It is toxic when
swallowed, so exercise caution.) You also can pour 1 cup of borax
into the toilet and leave overnight for extra-strength
Source: Children's Health Environmental Coalition
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