Often, when buying children’s furniture, you will see manufacturers say that their finishes are “non-toxic.” Unfortunately, this simply means that the finish adheres to some federal safety standards for coatings. However, those standards are not protecting us from VOCs, nor are they protecting us adequately from heavy metals and other harmful substances. In many cases, the federal standards tolerate levels of heavy metals and other known toxins (many of which are carcinogens) that scientists believe are far too high to be safe with repeated exposures. What are VOCs? According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s “Introduction to Indoor Air-Quality,” the term “VOCs” refers to a wide range of chemicals that are emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids.


Many consumer products release VOCs. VOCs are associated with both short- and long-term health problems, and the concentrations of VOCs in the air we breathe (and present on surfaces) is typically higher indoors than it is outdoors. VOCs are emitted from solid furnishings. When it comes to hard furniture like cribs, the levels of VOCs emitted is dependent upon the type of wood and the type of finish. Formaldehyde, a VOC with enormous health-risks is the most talked about VOC when it comes to wood, but there are many others. Although all wood has a small amount of formaldehyde, press-wood (a.k.a., composite, fiberboard, MDF, veneer, OSB, and some types of plywood) is known to release much higher levels of VOCs than natural, solid wood. This is because manufactured wood is largely composed of resins and glues that are teaming with VOCs.


Another claim manufacturers like to make, in addition to “non-toxic,” is that their finishes are “water-based.” Although water-based is preferable to petroleum-based (petroleum based products are often heavily contaminated with heavy metals), water-based coatings can still contain carcinogens and heavy metals, and emit large amounts of VOCs. When you decide to begin protecting your family from toxins, you will quickly learn that calling manufacturers needs to become a part of your purchases. A family who trusts labels to reveal pros and cons of a product is a family who will be exposed to mountains of poisons. When you call manufacturers to inquire about their finishes, beware of customer service agents who think that their finishes would have to be at least low-VOC or the government would not have allowed them. So we invite you to pay a high attention before you chose the furniture for your new born and kids.