As you near the end of your pregnancy, there’s a good chance you’ll have the insatiable urge to get the nursery ready in every way. You’ll go out and buy new decorations, clean the room incessantly and even paint the old walls to be a new and exciting color. At that point, you’ve probably researched all there is to know about staying safe during your pregnancy around paint thinners, but you might be unaware of what the chemicals in common household paints might do to your baby once he or she is sleeping soundly in the crib. Believe it or not, many common paints have chemicals that could be harmful to your infant.

Harmful chemicals in paint are one of the many things that you probably grew up inhaling that only recently have been under fire for their harmful effects. Like many other things, you might look at the rusty old toys and carelessly painted crib you were once surrounded with and wonder whether they really had a negative effect. If you’re healthy and functioning, they couldn’t have been all that bad. However, there is a slight chance that such chemicals could have had a negative effect, and you’d probably rather be safe than sorry. Many paints could contain chemicals called volatile organic compounds (VOC’s). These are organic chemicals in the paint that help make production more effective, but they also cause compounds to be released into the air once the paint has dried onto walls.

Studies have been conducted to determine the long-term effects of inhaling VOC’s, but in many cases they have not been around long enough to show any side effects. However, scientists have been able to confidently say that an infant’s sensitive system cannot properly process the chemicals emitted into the air by VOC’s. Adults’ systems can handle the compound effectively, but infants are unable to deal with such an active airborne ingredient.

Before you paint the walls of the nursery in anticipation of your baby’s upcoming arrival, check the ingredients on the paint. Many eco-friendly paints exist that avoid the use of such chemicals, and these would be a wiser choice. There is a chance you could use VOC paint and see absolutely no negative side effects, but you’ll see that when it comes to the health and well being of your baby, the safer course of action is always preferable to the risky one.

Source: O Herbarth et al: Decreasing Concentrations of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) Emitted Following Home Renovations. Indoor Air Volume 20 Issue 2 pp. 141-146 April 2010