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Sleeping and reading

The bedroom is more than just a place to sleep. It is also a place for dreams, fantasies and expectations. This is where we sing lullabies, tell tall tales and perhaps have a nightmare from time to time. The room often changes over the years, just like the child. Furniture is replaced, curtains are put up and new textiles are added. But new things can release chemical substances, so air out the room frequently and do not let children sleep in a room that contains a lot of electronics or which smells strongly of paint or cleaning products.

Building and painting

Expectant parents often want to prepare and make everything nice for the baby. However, bear in mind that paint, building materials and textiles usually give off the most chemicals when they are new. Even unborn children are sensitive to chemicals so in the interest of safety, it is best if someone other than the pregnant woman conducts the renovations, even though the risk to the unborn child is low. It is also a good idea to complete the work several weeks before the baby is due so that there time for the space to be aired out properly.

Mattresses and pillows

When manufacturing foam rubber, certain hazardous chemicals are used that may sometimes remain in the finished foam rubber mattresses or pillows. If a new mattress smells strongly, it is good to air it until the smell has vanished. Mattresses, foam rubber pillows and mattress covers manufactured prior to 2004 may sometimes contain substances that are now banned. It is therefore sensible to replace older bedding.

Items that smell and light up

Some toys and erasers that smell strongly may contain allergens and phthalates. It is therefore a good idea to avoid strongly smelling products. Luminous necklaces, bracelets and glow sticks that are often found at markets and festivals are made of thin plastic tubes that are easily broken. They contain a luminous liquid that can cause severe irritation if it ends up in the mouth or eyes. Consequently, do not let children suck or chew on these.

Plastic flooring

Plastic and vinyl flooring may be manufactured from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) that is made soft using phthalates. PVC flooring is increasingly being made using alternative softeners. It is a good idea to ask about this in the shop before purchasing flooring. You have the right to know if the product contains any specific hazardous substance. Read more on page Your right to information about your rights as a consumer.

Chemicals end up in dust. It is therefore a good idea to keep dust out of the rooms where small children are crawling and air them out frequently.

Clothing and other textiles

Chemicals are needed in order to produce fabrics. Chemicals can also be used in the clothes themselves, for example to colour them or in a dirt and water repellent coating. Sometimes special chemicals are also added in order to prevent clothes creasing or becoming mouldy during transport. In some cases, clothes are also treated with antibacterial substances to combat bad smells, for example. Clothing with plastic prints may also contain phthalates and heavy metals.

Some clothing contains chemical residues that can, in some cases, cause allergic reactions, especially if the fabric comes into direct contact with the skin. It is therefore a good idea to wash new clothes, bed linen, rugs, pillows, soft toys and towels before children use them for the first time, and to avoid clothing and other textiles that are treated with antibacterial substances. Environmentally labelled clothes are manufactured with a lower environmental impact and they are required to be free from cetain chemical residues.

However, as there are several different environmental labels that have different requirements, it is a good idea to find out what each of them stands for. You can read more about environmental labelling on page Environmental and safety labelling .

Shoes and accessories

Shoes made of plastic and bags made of artificial leather may contain softening phthalates and heavy metals. It is often better to buy shoes and accessories made of fabric and real leather.

Light bulbs and older thermometers

Low-energy light bulbs and fluorescent tubes contain small amounts of the substance mercury, which is harmful to health and the environment. Older thermometers may also contain mercury. Exposure to small amounts of mercury on occasion is not hazardous, but it is a good precaution to avoid being exposed unnecessarily. If a light bulb or older thermometer containing mercury breaks, children should leave the room while you air it out and deal with the remains. First air the room for about 30 minutes before you pick up the remains using a piece of cardboard and then clean the floor with a damp cloth. Then place all the remains and the cloth in a glass container with a tightly fitting lid and leave it at a recycling centre for environmentally hazardous waste. Do not use a vacuum cleaner to suck up the mercury as there is a risk that the metal with be vaporised further and spread in the air. If you want energy-saving light bulbs that do not contain mercury, you can choose LED or halogen bulbs, for example. More information about the alternatives is available on the Swedish Energy Agency’s website, http://www.energimyndigheten.se/energieffektivisering/hemmet/belysning/

Good ventilation

Some items we have at home, for example those that are treated with flame retardant, made of soft plastic or contain new chipboard, can release small quantities of chemical substances into the interior air. By maintaining good ventilation and airing frequently, you can keep the interior air cleaner and reduce the quantity of chemicals that children may inhale.