Eco-friendly nursery: How and when to paint baby's room

Consumer Reports News: March 04, 2009 02:30 PM

Right up there on the excitement scale with creating your list of baby names is pondering the endless possibilities for making your baby’s room special.

The look of your baby’s nursery is important and that often starts with a fresh coat of paint.  Here are painting tips that can make the project--and the room--healthier for the whole family.

* Paint the nursery at least two months before your baby arrives. That allows time for fumes to subside before your baby comes home. Use a paint that’s labeled low-VOC or zero VOCs (volatile organic compounds), which are solvents that are released into the air as the paint dries and may be irritating to a baby--and some adults. (See our interior paint report for more information.)

You may want to wear a mask as you paint, available at hardware stores and home centers. If it’s practical, paint the nursery and other rooms in your house in warmer months so you can keep the windows open, suggests Philip Landrigan, M.D., a pediatrician and head of the department of Community and Preventive Medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, in New York City. To reduce other fumes, thoroughly air out new furniture and anything made of plastic or wood.

* Be on the lookout for lead. If your home was built before 1978, you can presume that it contains lead-based paint. If paint on walls is not chipping or peeling, it’s less likely to cause toxic exposure to lead, but even intact paint can be a hazard, particularly on windows and doors that generate lead-contaminated dust when disturbed by impact or friction.

Don’t sand paint that may contain lead or attempt to remove it yourself; that’s a job for a contractor who is licensed for lead removal work. If you have lead-paint sanded, do so several months before your baby is due; both parents should be out of the house for the duration of the sanding, says Dr. Landrigan.

For more information on how to safely combat lead paint hazards, go to

See our newborn necessities checklist and infant car seat tips for more information.

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