Most parents (and parents-to-be) know the basics of childproofing a home—concealing electrical wires, locking up poisonous cleaning products, using window guards. But less conspicuous—though threatening and potentially deadly—dangers lurk in places you might not expect, such as your family’s air or water supply.
Says Robert Weitz, founder of RTK Environmental Group, an environmental testing-service firm with an office in White Plains, “Eighty percent of homes have at least one environmental hazard, according to the EPA.” To ensure your baby comes home to a safe living environment, do a safety sweep indoors and out:
Have you thought about…
“Metals can build up in a baby’s blood stream if they drink or bathe in contaminated water,” says Weitz. And with all of the bottles and hands to be washed and baths to be had in your baby’s first few months at home, it’s worth being proactive. Tap-water testing, part of RTK’s Healthy Baby, Healthy Home testing service, which targets private living spaces, can identify “contaminants, metal fluorides, chlorines, and bacteria” in your plumbing (starting at around $395).
Take the offensive by adding a water purifier to your kitchen faucet right away—pick up a Brita Faucet Filtration System for around $53 at Feinsod Hardware in Port Chester (43 N Main St 914-939-3872).
…indoor air pollutants?
Low concentrations of airborne chemicals such as hairspray, air freshener, and disinfectant can be invisible toxins to both you and your child. Weitz warns against unnecessary exposure to these and other common VOCs (volatile organic compounds), which, according to the EPA, can induce everything from headaches and sinus irritation to more serious afflictions (depending on the toxicity levels of the compound). “They’re in, basically, everything you buy—new bedding, leather sofas. That new car smell? Those are VOCs.”
Healthy Baby, Healthy Home tests air quality at a rate of $500 to $2,500, but besides detection, you can control usage of airborne beauty products such as perfume or hair spray, and make sure pets who use flea powder or other chemical treatments stay far away from your baby’s room as precautionary measures. Invest in a pet gate, from $39 at Provisions for Pets in Bronxville (110 Kraft Ave 914-779-0414), and make sure your air conditioning units are clean.
“Air quality can be affected by so many different factors,” Weitz explains, but “the biggest thing we look for now is mold. We have a lot of clients who are allergic or have asthma as a result of it.” RTK, as well as most contractors, can identify secreted mold, while utilizing an air-filtration device, like a Honeywell 1700-S ($150) from Brewer True Value in Mamaroneck (161 E Boston Post Rd 914-698-3232; rgbrewer.com), can further secure your baby’s respiratory health.
According to the Westchester County Department of Planning, nearly 84 percent of homes in the County were built prior to 1980, just two years after the ban of lead-based paints in 1978, meaning households that haven’t renovated since run the risk of being affected by hazardous chemicals found in old formulas—which have been linked to the development of neurological disorders.
“When the lead paint is disturbed, it releases dust that young children can breathe and ingest. Once a baby starts to crawl, they will pick up the dust on their hands”—which, of course, will end up in their mouth—says Weitz. For $475 to $675, RTK tests lead levels in interior and exterior paint using X-ray fluorescence, but if your home hasn’t been thoroughly inspected in a few decades, re-painting, starting with your baby’s nursery, is the safest course.
And don’t forget about…
One of the best-known ways to protect curious crawlers is covering up easy-to-reach outlets. Shield every floor-level socket in one fell swoop: Get up to 12 outlet plugs for around $3 at Armonk Hardware Co. (495 Main St, Armonk 914-273-3111).
As your little one grows—and begins to explore—you’ll be grateful you evaluated your home’s furniture, surfaces, and edges for odds of injury-infliction before the fact. Avoid (some) bumps and bruises by applying corner guards, four for about $7 at BuyBuy Baby in Scarsdale (1019 Central Ave 914-725-9220; buybuybaby.com) on every table.
[ ] Install faucet-water filter
[ ] Set up pet gate(s)
[ ] Buy air purifier
[ ] Repaint baby’s room
[ ] Cover electrical outlets
[ ] Attach corner/door guards