I've been "homeless" for the past few weeks and living out of a bag is starting to get to me. But it's all for a good reason. My New York apartment building has been doing some work right outside my window (we live on the first floor) and exposing toddling Aili, now 17 months, to the construction dust and chemical fumes isn't safe. I've been back a few times to pick up mail, essentials, and to bemoan the state of my poor (basically dead) plants. On my last visit home, a bunch of residents were gathered outside complaining to each other about the fumes. One - a woman I had never met before who is pregnant with twins - was concerned the chemicals might be harming her babies. We started talking, sharing information about the work in progress, and have been in contact ever since.
One of the key points Deirdre and I make (over and over) in The Complete Organic Pregnancy is that while pregnancy often makes parents-to-be want to nest and create a special room for their new baby, renovations are too risky. Demolition -- knocking down walls, or even pulling up carpets -- releases a who-knows-what's-in-it cocktail of pervasive dust that could possibly contain carcinogens and neurotoxins. New construction materials like paint often contain volatile organic compounds, there are carcinogens and neurotoxins in the glues that bind things like particleboard together, or even in the adhesive that adheres carpet to floors. The offgassing chemicals make for grim indoor air pollution.
If you choose not to bring baby into the house as it is, or if you have to fix something in your home, there are less-toxic ways of renovating. First, try to do minimal work -- a little nip or tuck rather than knocking down and starting from scratch. There are no-VOC paints, less toxic caulks, stains, (sustainably forested) woods, glues and the like. If there isn't a green depot near you, many of these items can be found online. As with all other aspects of your organic life, before you buy anything, even something as small as a roll of tape, do a little research and you might find it comes in a less- or non-toxic version. When it comes to growing babies, it always makes sense to buy the latter.
A few great resources:
Meanwhile, I'm busily researching companies that will test construction dust, then clean for specific contaminants before we move back into our home. We're homesick but happier safe than sorry.-Lexy