This leads me to the topic of our post today...off-gassing.
As I cited a moment ago, in this news story that aired on Good Morning America: "The Indoor Air Pollution Threat You May Not Have Known Existed" a number of new furniture pieces (bed, rocker, changing table, crib mattress, and even decorations) were all added to an expecting mother's nursery and then tests were performed to measure the air quality and what chemicals were being released. The individual furniture pieces were also tested to see which chemicals were being released. The results: over 300 chemicals were found in the fully furnished nursery! A test was also taken from outside the home, in the open air, and only 2 chemicals were present, can you believe that? Here we think our homes are a safe-haven from the toxic pollution and smog, but yet they are often more toxic than the air outside!
Watch the full story here:
Negative effects of off-gassing, as you saw in that video, can be felt in the form of: headaches, burning eyes, throat irritation, and dizziness, among other things in the short term and potentially asthma and cancer in the long term. My main symptom was always just a headache that lingered anytime I was around new furniture, and this usually would put me in a bad mood because I wasn't sure what the cause was. Then after reading some "green" books, I finally put two and two together and realized it was the fumes from the furniture off-gassing that caused all the ill symptoms.
A time when it's the most important to protect ourselves from these off-gassing chemicals is when we are preparing a nursery for a baby. Because not only do I want to decrease my exposure, as a pregnant mom, but I don't want my newborn baby to inhale those chemicals once she's born either.
|Here's Avery just a few days after she was born. Stay|
back off-gassing chemicals...you are not welcome
near this baby! (Cue karate-chopping, green mama).
But even if you're not pregnant, or you don't have a baby at your house, it's no reason to subject yourself to the harsh chemicals that off-gas from new furniture. These chemicals can affect everyone, in different ways. So let's learn how we can off-gas them to help everyone breathe a little easier.
|Here's Mila's baby bed, un-assembled, off-gassing on my|
|Here's a book/toy shelf for Mila's room, also un-assembled,|
and placed on my back porch to off-gas.
Now if weather, security, or just plain lack of time get in your way for allowing your furniture to off-gas outside, the next best option would be your garage, since it's separate from your main living area. Benefits of the garage are that it's free from the threat of weather changes, you don't have to move it daily if you don't feel like leaving it out all night outside. Downsides would be that it wouldn't have as much air circulation, and possible sunlight to speed up the process, but still a great off-gassing option.
|Here's Mila's mattress, which although it's still a natural brand,|
I still wanted to let it air-out a bit in setting where no debris
from the outdoors would get on it.
But what if you don't have a good place outside or a garage? You could place the furniture in a spare bedroom that way you are not constantly around the fumes being released. Take it the next step further in this location by turning on fans to this room, closing the door so the the fumes aren't released into the rest of the house, and even opening a window in the room to allow the fumes a place to go. Be sure to place some indoor plants in the room as well to help with filtering out the toxins in the air, read more here.
How long do you have to do it for? In researching this post, I searched and searched the web to find a definitive answer to this question and I did not find one...at least that I liked. Several sources stated that it would be best for the furniture to off gas for months before being used...some even said the chemicals could continue to off gas for 1-7 years! Wow, I don't know about you but I don't have that kind of time to just wait around. Usually we buy furniture because of a need, such as something has been broken, and needs to be replaced or someone is moving in (try a baby!) and needs a bed. In most situations we want to use that furniture as soon as possible.
So, with that in mind, and the advice from this news story that you saw above, I'm going with the standard of ONE WEEK when it comes to off-gassing any furniture I bring into my home. To me that gets a good amount of the fumes out, and while there may still be a few that linger, I will try and use things like indoor plants to continue to help absorb and filter out some of the toxins from the furniture as time goes on.
Really you can let your nose be your guide. If you have off-gassed a piece of furniture for a few days and it seems to have released most of it's "smell/chemicals" then go ahead and bring it in. Or if it's been a week and it's still too much for you to take, keep it outside for a bit longer. Go with what feels right to you.
|What do you think Avery? Is it done off-gassing?|
The type of furniture you purchase will have a lot to do with this off-gassing time. If you are able to get a more eco-friendly brand, that uses solid wood, and a non-toxic paint you probably won't have to off-gas it for more than a few days. But if it's made with particle board or painted with a traditional finish or varnish, you may find that you need longer than a week.
Curious what furniture I purchased? I'll have assembled pictures posted in the upcoming weeks (when the off-gassing is complete), but in the meantime here's the brands I got:
- Bed: DaVinci "Jamie" 4 in 1 Convertible Crib ($149). I love this bed because it can be converted from a crib to a toddler bed, and even to a twin size bed (with the purchase of Full/Twin Size Bed Conversion Rails $70). It is made from sustainable New Zealand pine wood, and made with a non-toxic finish. Avery's crib is a similar model from this same manufacturer and we've been very happy with it. Obviously there are greener crib options out there, but for our budget and for the lasting power this bed can have (literally from crib to college), it works for us.
- Crib Mattress: DaVinci Willow Natural Coconut Palm Mattress ($169). This is the same mattress I purchased for Avery and we love that it has two sides, a firmer side for infants, and a softer side for toddlers. As the title states, it's made with natural coconut palm fibers and a latex-free foam. Even better, it doesn't contain any toxic flame-retardants, a pesky chemical found in most crib mattresses, read more here.
- Bookcase: Land of Nod, 48" Flat Top Bookcase ($349). Probably not the most green option, but according to their website, the white bookcase I bought is made with: "Solid poplar with low emission engineered wood (painted White)". I'm glad it's not made with particle board, but I can definenlty smell the paint on it, so I can guarantee this one will be off-gassing the longest.
So there you have it, the rundown on off-gassing, what it is, how you can do it, and the benefits it can have you for and your family. Have you ever tried off-gassing before? Any tips, tricks, or time suggestions you could add to the discussion? Share below.
Happy off-gassing greenies!