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Eco-friendly space for babies and kids

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Henning Bloech - Greenguard   Print
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If your honey-do list includes setting up a nursery, renovating the kids’ room or touching up nicks and dings caused by the wild things, you may want to think about how your work impacts the air in your home before starting a project. Together with the paint, the new furniture, the carpet and all the other materials, we also bring harmful chemicals into our homes that are released from these very products. Good air is important, especially for children who are more susceptible to pollutants than adults. Childrens' organs and respiratory, immune and neurological systems are still developing. And since the little ones breathe at a faster rate than we are, they breathe in more air proportionately to their body mass putting them at greater risk.

Not to worry, it is pretty easy to take the necessary steps to avoid indoor air quality problems. The best way to reduce exposure to airborne chemicals (or volatile organic compounds = VOCs) is by reducing products in the home that release VOCs.
  • When buying paints and stains, look for labels that describe a "low-emitting formula." It is important to note that many products are labeled for VOC content (e.g. "Formaldehyde-Free" or "Low-VOC"). Content is not an appropriate indicator of what actually emits off of the product. Be sure to always have adequate ventilation when using “wet” construction products.
  • Select products that have been tested and verified (ideally by a third-party) for low emissions of formaldehyde and other volatile organic compounds.  See Resources at end of this article
  •  Odors are bad!  Avoid products with strong and long-lasting odors as this typically indicates high chemical levels (this includes all “natural” odors or fragrances like pine, lemon, etc.). For new products, unpack and air them out for a minimum of two weeks or until the odors have dissipated prior to placing them in the home. If strong odors remain you may want to contact the manufacturer.
  • Open the windows! Unless you live downwind from a smokestack, outdoor air is generally less polluted than indoor air. Air out your home on a daily basis to flush out any airborne pollutants. Newly renovated or furnished areas should be aired out with outdoor air for a minimum of one week or until the new odors dissipate.
If you feel inspired by these simple steps, here are a few more to help keep the air in your home clean and healthy:

  • Ask everyone to take off their shoes when entering the home from the outside. This not only reduces the amount of dirt tracked into your house, it also reduces the amount of pesticides and other pollutants visitors may bring in from the outside.
  • Use water-based cleaners that are odor-free and biodegradable; avoid ones that say "danger," "caution," or "flammable." Use non-fragranced cleaners and polishes that rub on rather than spray on. Vinegar and water makes for a great floor cleaner and damp cloths often work better to control dust than chemical cleaners!
  • Take the plastic bags off of your dry-cleaned clothes and air them out before bringing them into the home.
  • Do not use any air cleaners that release or use ozone in the process.
Good indoor air quality is essential to maintaining a healthy home.

For more information on indoor air quality, please visit the American Lung Association (ALA), United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) , California Air Resources Board (CARB) or Aerias. Independent certification groups include GREENGUARD Certification and CRI Green Label Plus certification for carpets and rugs.

Henning Bloech is the Executive Director of the GREENGUARD Environmental Institute and is a father of three. 
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