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Keeping a child's bedroom free of indoor pollutants

We want to do what's best for our children and often equate that with buying brand new products. However, new isn't necessarily healthy. A freshly decorated room, for example, may fill the air with chemicals that are harmful to everyone but especially to children and babies.

Some indoor pollutants are known as VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds).

VOCs are synthetic and natural substances that are emitted from everyday products even at room temperature. They can be found in every home and may cause different reactions and symptoms such as headaches, concentration difficulties, respiratory and eye irritations, dizziness and tiredness. Completely removing VOCs from your home would prove nearly impossible, but you can reduce their concentration.

Test your nest

Babies and young children can spend more than 20 hours a day indoors so here's how to ensure the air they breathe is as free from air pollutants as possible.

Paint

When it comes to walls you need to think beyond just pink or blue, you also need to think about choosing a paint that doesn't emit harmful chemicals. Look for low or no VOC paint as well as natural pigments if possible. It's best to avoid paints with claims of being anti- mould as these are very likely to contain biocides which can add to indoor pollution.

While painting, all rooms should be well ventilated. Newly painted objects should be left in a well-aired room or better still, painted outdoors.

If your home was built before the 60s and paint is flaking you should ask a specialist to check if it contains lead. Removing lead paint improperly can increase the hazard by spreading lead dust around the house.

Wallpaper

Traditional vinyl wallpaper leaks VOCs and has the potential to harbour mould. The adhesives used in pre-pasted wallpaper emit vapours. However, it is now possible to purchase paper with low VOC emissions.

Wood chip wallpaper, while no longer being as popular as it once was, is a healthy choice because it is breathable and does not have a negative impact on indoor air quality. If you don’t want to make a permanent statement with wallpaper you could try stencils or non-toxic wall stickers.

Most wallpaper can be applied with normal cellulose paste. Pastes with greater adhesive quality and containing anti-mould substances or other additives are not necessary.

You should let the wallpaper dry in a well-aired room before doing any painting, laying floor covering or setting up furniture.

Floors

In the UK 98% of homes have wall-to-wall carpet. They provide a non-slip, soft surface for children who spend a lot more time on the ground than adults. However, that easily identifiable 'new carpet' smell is actually coming from chemicals in the carpet or its backing.

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