I have to admit...I spend more time than I should researching safe and healthy products for my family.
It's not my fault though.
It takes me so much time because it is harder than you would think. From the chemicals used to fire proof a mattress, to the glue used in furniture, to the backing attached to rugs, chemicals are everywhere. It is impossible to avoid them. I try my hardest though. Even before Josh beat cancer, I was on a mission to limit our exposure as much as possible...after the diagnosis...forget about it.
As we began to prep for the the new baby, I was reminded that furniture, rugs and mattresses are some of the worst offenders...emitting harmful VOC's into the air for weeks, months and some even years.
Whats a VOC?
VOCs, according to the EPA, are “Volatile organic compounds emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids. VOCs include a variety of chemicals, some of which may have short- and long-term adverse health effects. Concentrations of many VOCs are consistently higher indoors (up to ten times higher) than outdoors. VOCs are emitted by a wide array of products numbering in the thousands.”
You may have heard of low or no-VOC house paint...you can get it anywhere. It doesn't have that typical paint smell and is generally safer...But paint is not the only thing that emits VOCs. Many things you bring into your household do. From your couch, to your mattress, to your dressers, to your new flooring...the list is exhausting. According to the EPA and other state health organizations, effects of VOC's can include eye, nose, and throat irritation; headaches, loss of coordination, nausea; and damage to the liver, kidney, and central nervous system. Some cause cancer in animals and some are suspected or known to cause cancer in humans. Not good guys.
What I try and do, is make choices each time I buy something new to move away from harmful products and choice safer ones...even if the cost is a bit higher. Usually the safer choices are the ones that last the longest anyway. Solid wood furniture is going to stay with you a lot longer than particle board.
For big baby boy D we needed to get two beds, a dresser and a rug. Seems easy. This shouldn't take long....said Lisa to herself...WEEKS ago. Yes, it took me weeks to figure out what I was going to place into the new nursery because even though I am shooting for healthy choices...we are not millionaires. At the same time I did not want to sacrifice our health or quality to save a few bucks.
I have been asked by some of my health nut friends about what we decided to go with...so I am going to save you guys hours of research and lay it all out for ya. Little by little if we all start to make healthier choices for products the demand will go up and the price will come down....and people will begin to live more healthy lives. That is my hope!
Lets start with what took me the least amount of time. The dresser. I already knew from previous research the dresser we were going to choose. My first choice would have been a completely solid piece of wood. However finding a dresser, in white, that is completely solid wood that is under $400 is close to impossible. Even if a site will boast “solid wood” it usually has a few components, whether it is the draw bottoms or the backing that is not. The problem with furniture that is not solid wood, is that it usually contains particle board or MDF board. These products contain formaldehyde (among other things,) which emit gases into the air from the finished boards. At surprisingly low levels, these formaldehyde emissions produce a pungent odor, and they can pose a serious health risk. If you ever have looked at a piece of particle board, say at Home Depot, there is a warning inked right onto the board. No thanks.
We decided to go with IKEA's Hemnes dresser for $250 bucks. You can check it out HERE. This piece is made mostly from solid wood with just a very small portion of it being fiber board. What I love about IKEA though, is their safety standards are WAY higher than most brands. They have, and continue to, phase out harmful chemicals from their products. Some examples; IKEA has set an early voluntary ban on PVC (decided 1991) except in cables, an early ban of all organic brominates flame retardants in furniture (effective from 2000) and a ban on formaldehyde emitting paints and lacquers on all products (effective from 1993). So they do not allow formaldehyde in any of their products. I even wrote to them and grilled them a little bit more on this. They assured me the dresser I was going to purchase did not have any formaldehyde. Thank you IKEA. On top of that, BPA (Bisphenol A) was removed from all children’s products, they have removed any phthalates from the production of IKEA children’s and food contact products, they do not allow heavy metals in any of their products and chemicals such as APEOs and chlorine bleaching agents are banned from use in production. They also test VOC levels in many of their products to make sure they are emitting at very low levels.
Now don't get me wrong. I would still take a critical eye to their products and emailing them with questions like I did, can't hurt, but I have been very happy so far with the products I have purchased from them...and with how affordable they are. I think they are a nice choice.
You can read more about their products and materials HERE.
That being said...not all of their products pass my test. While at IKEA I scooped up a gray rug to put in the babies room. We were trying to get out of the store so I really didn't think too much about it. We grabbed a nice one and left. I knew, like with mostly everything I buy, I was going to “off-gas” it for a few days in the garage, so I was not too worried about it. It was small and I figured IKEA has good products, it wouldn't be an issue.
By the way...off-gassing basically means airing out your new furniture or rug or mattress or whatever...to get rid of some of the chemical smell. Research shows, while VOC's can emit for years in some products, the most toxic levels are released in the first few days to weeks of purchasing the product. So it is always a good idea to do this. Leaving it out in the sun...even better.
Anyway back to the rug. I got home and we unraveled it in the garage. Immediately, there was an over powering “new rug smell.” That “new” smell you get a whiff of when you buy a new car or in this case a new rug...is basically chemicals. So yea...its not good. I left it in the garage for a day, but the smell was just too strong for my liking. I looked it up on their website and found it was made of 100 % polypropylene with a synthetic latex backing. Ugh... I knew already those two materials were both synthetic and not ideal. While synthetic rugs are easy to clean and maintain they are exactly that, synthetic. There are chemicals that go into making them. The same with nylon and polyester. They are produced mainly from petroleum derivatives, some with over 100 chemicals added for stain and wear resistance, soil repellents, adhesives binding the backing and tufts together. I am not sure what chemicals were in this particular rug from IKEA, because I did not contact them myself about this particular rug, and while I believe they are striving to make good products, the smell put me off, so I began a search for an affordable second option.
In my searching I stumbled upon Under The Nile. You can read about them HERE. This company makes kids clothing, toys, home products and a bunch of other good stuff from 100 percent organic Egyptian cotton. They do not use any chemical finishes on their fabrics, only natural starches. They whiten their fabric using an oxygen-based whitening process and their dyes are made with metal-free colors, containing no harmful chemicals such as AZO agents.
On their site I found a very limited rug section. The rugs they sell are made from scraps from their other products. They only come in a 4x6 size, but for me that was perfect for our small nursery. The colors were bright and fun and made from 100 percent organic cotton. I was sold. I bought a white and red one to go with our Buckeyes theme and I was super happy with my purchase. The rug was around 80 bucks, which I thought was very reasonable for organic cotton. You can check the rugs out HERE.
Other good options, as opposed to organic cotton, are jute, hemp and sea grass fiber rugs. My second and third options were jute one from Amazon...which had a great price...and rugs from Hook and Loom. This company is dedicated to making rugs without chemicals or harmful toxins and they have great prices too.
Next was our new mattresses. We needed two. One for Lucia's room, because the baby would get her bed, and one for the baby's room for guests and us when we have to be in there with baby.
Man...what a pain in the butt this was. This took the longest. I was in a black hole of mattress research hell on and off for weeks. I even found myself jumping on my friend Melissa's 4-year-old's bed...not my greatest moment.
Mattresses are the worst offenders of chemicals. Some harmful things that are inside conventional mattresses are, chemical filled polyurethane foam, formaldehyde, flame retardants (which have been linked to cancer and nervous system issues) and memory-foam ( some models were found to emit over 50 chemicals, including carcinogens benzene and napthalene.) Long story short...none of this stuff is good for you.
So I was set on finding a good mattress, that was non-toxic and that wouldn't send us to the poor house. I narrowed my list down to three companies.
My Green Mattress
My first choice, originally, was Naturepedic. If you check out their website and take a look at the third-party independent studies done on their products you will find they are pretty legit. They have multiple certifications for their high quality products. They use all organic materials, no chemicals whatsoever and no synthetic materials like latex or foam. Now the reasons I didn't go with them...
My second option was My Green Mattress. I heard about them through one of the natural sites I follow. They too boast several certifications and organic materials. The model I was looking at was the Eco. This was a bit cheaper at $530 for a one-sided twin. I was pretty much sold on this one until I started reading some of the reviews again. Many people complained of the quality and a very strong odor to the mattress. I wrote the company asking about the smell. They replied by saying because they do not treat the wool that is in the top layer of the mattress, it can have an odor, but it will dissipate after a while. Reviews were contrary to that. Some said the mattress smelled like a barn. Another said they have had it for over six months and it still smells too strong to use. A couple people questioned how organic the mattress was because of the horrible smell. I am very sensitive to smells. I was not going to take that risk either.
On top of those few issues, people complained of these cotton mattresses being very hot. My daughter and husband are like heaters in the night. I didn't want to make matters worse.
My last option, and the one I went with, was the Avalon by Brentwood Homes. This was not the most natural mattress I looked into though. This was made of Belgian stretch knit for the top layer, New Zealand wool layer for fire prevention, 2-inch orthopedic foam layer and a 8-inch 5-zone Quantum®Edge Combi-Zone® Coil System.
So this mattress does have a foam layer in it. It is synthetic. So I thoroughly questioned the company about what exactly was in this foam. They assured me that the poly-foam in this mattress is not treated with the same chemicals that are used in most conventional mattresses. There are no flame retardants and the VOC emissions of their products are strictly tested. They only use water-based non-toxic glues and CertiPUR-US-certified nontoxic polyurethane foam, which is a certification that is only achieved for low VOC emission foams and foams produced without harmful chemicals. On top of that, they hold the eco-INSTITUT-label, which is a label obtained through stringent testing of emissions and materials used.
I didn't love the use of the foam, but the foam is what makes the bed a bit more comfortable and breathable, compared to the cotton alone. The foam is very firm in this particular model, so we would not have the problem of the bed breaking down over time, like some of the cotton ones. The coil system was also a bit more intricate in this bed as well.
On to the reviews. They were great. The only complaint I kept seeing was that the mattress was too firm. That was not a bad complaint to me. According to experts, children should be on firm mattresses to support their growing bones. There were no reviews of smells, or coils sticking out, or sinking feeling...nothing.
As much as I would have liked to go with an all organic product, I thought for what we were looking for, this was our best option. The price for this mattress was $520...but I asked the company for a coupon and they gave me one! (You guys should always do that. Most companies will be happy to give coupons for new customers. The rug people gave me 10 percent off too!) The total for two twin beds came to $840. About $400 cheaper than the Naturepedic would have been and $200 less than My Green Mattress.
When we got the beds I did not notice any smell to them. I still left them on the covered porch for about a week but honestly, I don't think I needed to do that at all. We have had the bed for about three weeks and so far so good! Lucia has been sleeping great and I am really happy with our purchase.
The last thing on my list was a mattress cover for Lucia. She is completely potty trained now, but still has accidents at night. I didn't want one of those accidents to destroy her new $500 mattress, so I began looking for a cover...again friends...not as easy as you would think. Most of the covers I found contained vinyl or other plastics that not only off-gas more chemical goodness... but were linked to breathing problems like asthma. Naturepedic, again, makes a great one, but for a twin it was $100 bucks. Yea..no...not spending that. The reviews on Amazon also had pictures of it leaking through to the mattress and not working very well. So I decided against them again.
After much searching I decided to go with the Velfont Organic Cover. You can check it out HERE. This cover is made with 100% organic cotton and a polyurethane membrane. This polyurethane layer has been manufactured according to Oeko-Tex Standard 100, which ensures no harmful substances have been used. Keep an eye out for the Oeko-Tex seal. You will see it on blankets and sheets and other fabrics. This seal is one you want to be looking for when shopping. I often see it on blankets at Target.
Finally I was done!
Here is a look at baby boys room. I love how the Buckeye colors look all together. It really came better than we thought! I have a few added touches to make ...but man am I glad to have all that buying done. Now we wait!!
Hello friends! I am Lisa. Lover of Christ and family, a former television reporter, and a wife and mom who strives to live a healthy, toxic free lifestyle.