As someone lucky enough to have lots of kids in my life and who will soon be trying to conceive, I think it abhorrent that companies not only sell cribs that off-gas chemicals known to have harmful effects on infants, but that so-called consumer protection agencies allow this to continue. I’ve already discussed problems with safety regulations in the US, so this time I’ll direct my ire at safety issues and toxic chemicals in cribs in particular.

The key thing to know about cribs is that it’s not just the mattress your baby sleeps on that can cause problems. While a crib might seem inert and innocuous, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of potential toxic chemicals lurking in cribs. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), there are over 80,000 unregulated industrial chemicals used in the US, and where regulations do exist, these are not as robust as many of us would like (and regulations are being systematically eroded).

Now, consider that your baby will spend a considerable amount of time asleep (hopefully) in their crib for the first little while, and that they breathe 40-60 times a minute when awake and 30-40 times a minute when asleep (vs. 12-16 times a minute for adults). Add to that the fact that your newborn is working hard to develop a healthy nervous system, immune system, endocrine (hormonal) system and more, and it starts to look very important to keep potential toxic chemicals out of the nursery and out of the home altogether if we can help it. 

The sad reality, though, is that many new parents unwittingly increase the presence of toxic chemicals in the home just before a baby is born. Nesting can mean new paint, new rugs, new bedding, a new crib, drapes, toys, clothes, and other furniture, all of which can result in the nursery being worse for indoor air quality than any other room in the house. Indeed, researchers have found that these nesting behaviors in the late stage of pregnancy can increase the level of VOCs in the house and, in turn, increase the risk of serious health problems in infants.

We also tend to keep an infant’s room warmer than the rest of the house, and use humidifiers, both of which increase the level of leaching and off-gassing of toxic chemicals such as formaldehyde from furniture.

I’ve already mentioned lead, phthalates, formaldehydes, and VOCs in general as things to watch out for when buying a crib, but what do these chemicals do and what other things should you watch out for regarding toxic chemicals in cribs? Let’s dig in, starting with VOCs.

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) in Cribs

There’s no ‘safe’ dose of VOCs, but even if there was such a thing established for adults, the level would have to be much lower for newborns and toddlers. Before we get ahead of ourselves, though, let’s first look at what we mean by VOCs.

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are chemical compounds such as toluene, benzene, xylene, styrene, formaldehyde, and others. These compounds contain at least one atom of carbon together with atoms of hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, sulfur, halogens, phosphorous and silicon. VOCs are present in the atmosphere in the form of vapor and are frequently classified in groups including aromatic, carbonyl, paraffin, halogenated paraffin, halogenated olefin, terpenes, and others. 

These chemicals can be present in the wood, glue, paint, lacquer, and other parts of a crib, as well as in carpets, rugs, drapes, other soft furnishings, clothing, synthetic latex mattresses and mats, floor stains and paints, and various other products often found in a nursery, including stuffed toys, mobiles, nursery wall decals, and more. VOCs are often present in these products and furnishings to act as stain and soil repellents, antimicrobial treatments (especially in polyurethane foam), adhesives, and flame retardants. VOCs, many of which are classed as carcinogens, are emitted as a breathable gas from cribs and crib mattresses.

Unfortunately, the nesting that many of us do in preparation for a newborn can increase levels of VOCs in the house. Indeed, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has noted that concentrations of VOCs inside the house can be ten-fold higher than outdoors. Concentrations in and around a crib can be  particularly problematic, and studies have shown increased concentrations of VOCs in incubators due to mattresses off-gassing, especially when the air is hot and humid (which is usually recommended in a nursery).

Why does it matter if VOCs off-gas from cribs? Well, because we know that even in adults these chemicals can cause irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, as well as headaches, nausea and vomiting, dizziness, worsening of asthma symptoms, and even more systemic issues such as cancer, liver and kidney damage, and damage to the central nervous system. Researchers have also observed an increase in the risk of respiratory wheezing in infants and more than three times the risk of an infant developing atopic dermatitis if their birth parent was exposed to VOCs in late pregnancy (due to nesting behaviors).

VOCs have also been linked to fertility problems and miscarriage, with the VOC toluene in particular associated with serious harm to female reproductive health and to fetal and newborn development (R). Toluene exposure in pregnancy may result in “intrauterine growth retardation, premature delivery, congenital malformations, and postnatal developmental retardation”, as well as “decreased late fetal weight and retarded skeletal development”, and possible kidney problems and neurobehavioral developmental issues in newborns. 

Toluene is also a carcinogen, as is benzene, which has been linked to leukemia in children. Benzene damages bone marrow, decreasing the number of circulating blood cells, leading to aplastic anemia (R). Common childhood acute leukemia is thought to have two main contributing mechanisms: DNA damage in utero and response to infection in childhood. In one study, researchers found that exposure to chemicals such as benzene may lay the groundwork for childhood leukemia by releasing factors that cause DNA damage in cord blood and bone marrow cells, including stem cells. This DNA damage “caused by in utero exposure can reappear postnatally after an immune challenge” (R). So, while you may be diligently taking a prenatal supplement containing 5-MTHF (folate) to support heathy cell division and rapid fetal development, exposure to benzene may undermine a lot of your good work.

To add insult to injury, it appears that formaldehyde may exacerbate these adverse effects of benzene on bone marrow (R). In a huge systematic review of twenty-eight case control studies and one cohort study, researchers concluded that maternal exposure to benzene in solvent, paint, and petroleum increased the risk of acute lymphoblastic leukemia in offspring by 25%, 23%, and 42%, respectively (R).

Some VOCs are also greenhouse gases, albeit indirectly by affecting the ozone layer, which mean they contribute to climate change. As noted many times at Leaf Score, climate change is already adversely affecting the health of many people worldwide, due to increasingly severe wildfires/climate fires and associated air pollution, soil erosion, flooding, drought, and increasingly deadly tornadoes and other weather events.

Worryingly, the EPA looks set to change (without peer review) how it calculates mortality risk associated with air pollution. The changes would make the rollback of pollution regulation, namely the Clean Power Plan, look less harmful by eliminating around 1,400 deaths from the analysis. Some of the most vulnerable people to airborne pollutants? You guessed it, infants.

While we can’t do a lot about the EPA (aside from voting), you can make healthier choices for indoor air quality in your home, such as choosing a non-toxic crib free from VOCs. Thankfully, this is relatively easy. Simply choose a hardwood crib that is unfinished or finished with food-grade linseed oil. If the wood has been kiln treated, this kind of crib will naturally be free from toxic VOCs. 

If, however, you choose a crib that is finished with a stain, paint, or veneer, or that contains other composite wood products, you’ll want to establish if the manufacturers uses glues and paints that are safe and non-toxic, and if the crib is Greenguard Gold Certified. This certification doesn’t guarantee that a crib is free from all VOCs, but it does place strict limits on levels that can be present in a crib. Greenguard Gold also accounts for levels of lead in children’s products, which is what I’ll look at next. 

Lead

As with VOCs, there is no ‘safe’ level of lead for infants. This heavy metal is not needed for health and is known to severely affect mental and physical development. At very high levels, lead poisoning can be fatal. According to the Mayo Clinic, some of the possible signs and symptoms of lead poisoning in children include:

  • Developmental delay and learning difficulties
  • Irritability
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Sluggishness and fatigue
  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Hearing loss
  • Seizures
  • Eating things, such as paint chips, that aren’t food (pica).

If the birth parent is exposed to lead in pregnancy, this may result in premature labor, lower birth weight, and slow fetal growth. Lead can also result in stillbirth, miscarriage, and reduced sperm count or abnormal sperm.

Lead used to be present at fairly high levels in household paint, plumbing, and in gasoline. New regulations mean that levels of lead are now much lower in these, but lead persists in the environment, meaning that it may well be present in drinking water, food, and in dust inside the home. If you live in an older home and haven’t had the plumbing updated, it may be worth getting your water tested for lead. An effective home water filtration system can help filter out heavy metals such as lead, mercury, arsenic, and cadmium, among other things. 

Also, if you plan to strip old wooden floors in a nursery or other room in the house, be careful to wear protective gear, ventilate the area, and properly dispose of the paint or other flooring finish. Old paint, stains, and finishes are a major source of lead and, when stripped, these can cause lead to become airborne or rest as dust on surfaces.

Unless you buy or reuse an older crib, the crib itself shouldn’t be a major source of lead. That’s because the CPSC mandates that all children’s products, including cribs, sold and/or made in the US, must not contain a concentration of lead greater than 0.009 percent (90 parts per million) in paint or any similar surface coatings. For the rest of the crib, the product must not contain more than 100 parts per million (ppm) of total lead content in accessible parts. These levels have been updated from previous levels of 0.06 ppm, but meeting CPSC standards and even Greenguard Gold standards doesn’t mean a product is entirely lead-free. 

So, when manufacturers claim that their cribs are lead safe, they don’t mean free of lead. The same is true of formaldehyde, which I’ll look at next. As with VOCs, your best move is to buy a crib made with solid wood, without glues, lacquers, fiberboard, paint, or anything else other than a natural food-grade linseed oil finish. 

Formaldehyde 

Formaldehyde is one of the most common toxic chemicals found in the house. That’s because it is frequently present in furniture made with engineered or composite wood products, as well as in other furnishings that contain adhesives. Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen, respiratory toxin and irritant, and hazardous air pollutant, as noted by organizations including the EPA, IARC, and under California’s Proposition 65.

Formaldehyde is a VOC, the dangers of which I’ve already discussed. Formaldehyde warrants special attention when talking about cribs, however, because it is one of the most common toxic chemicals found in cribs and infants are much more susceptible to the adverse effects of formaldehyde than adults.

Formaldehyde may also be called formalin, formic aldehyde, methanol, methyl aldehyde, methylene oxide, oxomethane, and paraform. It is a colorless highly toxic and flammable gas at room temperature, is slightly heavier than air, and has a pungent and irritating odor detectable at low concentrations (typically 1 ppm, although some people can detect it and experience irritation at lower levels such as 0.5 ppm). Headaches, eye and airway irritation may occur below the odor threshold, i.e. below 0.5 ppm, in sensitized persons, and in infants. Odor adaptation can occur, which means that you can become used to off-gassing of formaldehyde and not notice it so much from new furniture or other household item.

Formaldehyde is one of the 25 most commonly produced chemicals in the world and is used to manufacture plastics, resins, and foam insulation (R). Formaldehyde is also present in glass mirrors, explosives, artificial silk and dye, and is used as a disinfectant and germicide, a fumigant in agriculture, as well as a mildew preventative in wheat, an insecticide, fungicide, and in making slow-release fertilizers. This chemical is used to produce sugar, rubber, various food crops, petroleum, pharmaceuticals, and textiles. Given this list, it’s plain to see how easy it is to be exposed to formaldehyde.

Formaldehyde is highly reactive, so is typically present as formalin, stabilized with methanol. Formaldehyde reacts with urea, acids, alkalis, phenols, and strong oxidizers, which means that it may react with common cleaning products used to wipe down a crib. As such, it’s always best to clean a crib with warm water, mild urea-free soap, and a soft rag.

Most exposure to formaldehyde is through inhalation or skin contact. It is well absorbed in the lungs and gastrointestinal tract, and fairly well absorbed through skin. Even at very low doses, sensitive individuals, including infants, may experience asthma and dermatitis. Because formaldehyde is heavier than air, it can accumulate in poorly ventilated, enclosed, or low-lying areas, including in a crib close to the floor. In addition to the simple fact that children are typically closer to floor level than adults, increasing their exposure to formaldehyde, infants and toddlers also have greater lung surface area to body mass and breathe more rapidly. This means that exposure to the same level of formaldehyde as adults can result in a much higher dosage in children.

Formaldehyde is absorbed even through intact skin, meaning that an infant touching a crib or mattress treated with formaldehyde may develop irritation or allergic dermatitis. Again, because children have a greater skin surface area to body weight ratio, they are more vulnerable to toxicants absorbed through the skin.

Ingestion of formaldehyde is very unlikely in infants but can be lethal at very low doses. In adults, just 30 mL of a 37% formaldehyde solution has proven fatal (R). Formaldehyde is corrosive, causing serious damage to the gastrointestinal tract, and resulting in metabolic acidosis, depression of the central nervous system, coma, respiratory distress, and kidney failure. Even at lower levels, formaldehyde can interact with molecules on cell membranes and in tissues and fluids, such as proteins and DNA, to disrupt cellular functions and potentially lead to cell death or undesirable, carcinogenic or mutagenic, changes in cells.

Individuals who have been previously sensitized to formaldehyde may experience severe narrowing of the bronchi (the tiny tubes in the lungs) even at very low doses, e.g. 0.3 ppm. This may have a rapid onset or be delayed up to 4 hours after exposure. Effects can worsen and persist for several days. Again, because children have much narrower airways and breathe more times per minute, the effects of formaldehyde can be much more severe. Infants are also unable to remove themselves unassisted from an area where formaldehyde is off-gassing.

Because the immune system is still developing in infants after birth, formaldehyde exposure can result in sensitization. Children are also more likely to experience symptoms of chronic exposure, such as:

  • Headache
  • Depression and mood changes
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Attention deficit
  • Impaired dexterity and development of motor coordination
  • Impaired memory and learning ability
  • Balance problems.

In one comprehensive study, researchers concluded that in the first year of life, infants were, on average, exposed to levels of formaldehyde of 19.5 µg/m3 (R). Around 48% of infants were exposed to levels higher than this at least once in their first year of life, and some 43.3% were exposed to these high levels for 12 months. The researchers divided the infants into four groups (quartiles) based on levels of formaldehyde exposure and then looked at the incidence of lower respiratory infection (LRI) and wheezy LRI in the infants in each group.

Those infants in the top quartile for formaldehyde exposure had a 31% increase in the incidence of LRI and a 43% increase in the incidence of wheezy LRI. Those with exposure above the median level had a 20% and 31% increase in LRI and wLRI incidence respectively.

In addition to respiratory issues, formaldehyde has also been linked to genotoxic effects in humans and lab animals, resulting in chromosomal anomalies. This means that exposure to formaldehyde is a real worry in pregnancy, highlighting the risks of nesting behaviors that introduce a greater concentration of formaldehyde into the home.

Choosing a crib that is not just formaldehyde safe but truly free of added formaldehyde is, to my mind, imperative, given the potential risks to birth parents, a developing fetus, newborns and toddlers. Again, Greenguard Gold offers some reassurance that levels of formaldehyde in a crib are not excessive, but it is not a guarantee that a product is formaldehyde-free. And, unfortunately, ‘formaldehyde-free’ may itself not be as reassuring as it sounds.

Cribs marketed as formaldehyde-free are a step forward, but this statement doesn’t guarantee that a crib is non-toxic. That’s because some companies replace their urea-formaldehyde adhesives with other chemicals that are themselves toxic. 

Formaldehyde-free cribs – are alternatives just as bad?

Given increasing awareness of the dangers of formaldehyde, crib manufacturers and makers of other types of furniture that incorporate composite woods have increasingly turned to other toxic chemicals that are not so well known. These include isocyanates like Methylene-Diphenyl-Diisocyanate, and soy-based adhesives containing VOCs such as acetone. The diisocyanates toluene diisocyanate (TDI) is the most common isocyanate involved in the manufacture of polyurethane, which is sometimes used in crib coatings (as well as in crib mattresses).

TDI is recognized as a carcinogen by the State of California and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and is known to cause tumors (mostly brain tumors). TDI also shows up on the List of Toxic Substances under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. And even the EPA considers the manufacturing plants producing polyurethane foam to be major sources of myriad hazardous air pollutants including TDI. So much so, that the State of North Carolina forced the closure of a polyurethane manufacturing plant because tests revealed that local residents were being exposed to potentially dangerous levels of TDI.

In fact, there are numerous cases of occupational exposure in factories to TDI and other toxic chemicals, and according to the CDC, such exposure can result in isocyanate-induced asthma, respiratory disease, and death and to other health problems related to accidental exposure to high levels of TDI as well as to cumulative exposure at lower levels. Polyurethane paints also poses a risk of exposure to the neurotoxin toluene and may cause asthma, eye irritation, nasal congestion, sore and dry throat, cough, cold-like symptoms, shortness of breath, wheezing, and chest tightness, and irritation to airways and the gastrointestinal tract.

VOC-free soy-based glues are preferable to glues that are formaldehyde-based and are also better than formaldehyde-free glues and resins that contain other VOCs. Unfortunately, soy proteins may simply be used as extenders in isocyanate-based adhesives or other adhesives that contain toxic chemicals, meaning that the same problems persist but companies feel entitled to ‘greenwash’ their products as using soy-based glues that are formaldehyde-free.

As an example of potential problems with some soy-based glues, you only need to look at a report from the Global Health and Safety Initiative, which details a study carried out by the Massachusetts Toxics Use Reduction Institute (TURI). This organization looked at soy-based glue used in composite wood and found that while the glue did decrease formaldehyde exposure, it also posed occupational health and safety risks for those working with the glue. This was primarily through exposure to a chemical called epichlorohydrin, which is listed in California’s Proposition 65 as a reproductive toxicant (causing infertility in men) and carcinogen, as well as a mutagen. Epichlorohydrin is acutely toxic to humans and significant exposure can cause severe damage to the liver, kidneys, eyes, and respiratory tract.

For the pedants among you, it’s worth noting that a wide range of materials, including wood and paper, naturally emit very small trace amounts of formaldehyde. Calling a product ‘formaldehyde-free is not, therefore, entirely accurate. Instead, it may be better for manufacturers to plainly state that their products contain ‘no added formaldehyde’.

While the terminology can get very confusing very quickly, what this all boils down to is that your best bet for a non-toxic crib is to choose a hardwood crib or softwood crib made without composite wood, glues, paints, lacquers, veneers, or other products and materials. Ideally, your crib would be made by a company that clearly demonstrates their abhorrence of VOCs including formaldehyde and that doesn’t try to greenwash by claiming the use of soy-based or water-based chemicals that aren’t fully detailed.

Phthalates

Phthalates are a family of industrial chemicals used to enhance flexibility and durability of plastic materials, such as those used in teething guards on crib rails and in other plastic crib components. Heat and humidity (such as found in a nursery) have been seen to increase the leaching of phthalates from plastics because these chemicals are not chemically bound to the plastic itself. 

Phthalates may be ingested, inhaled, or absorbed through the skin. Once absorbed by the body, phthalates are hydrolyzed and glucuronidated before being excreted in urine and feces. However, both the parent phthalate and its metabolites are biologically active, and an infant’s capacity to metabolize and eliminate phthalates is less than that of a full-grown adult. 

In a sad irony, premies (premature babies) cared for in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) may be exposed to Di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) at a level 4,000 to 160,000 times higher than that associated with toxicity (R). That’s because medical tubing often incorporates this particular type of phthalate; DEHP is also found in other polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic products, including in cribs in lacquers, veneers, paints, and teething guards.

According to the CDC, DEHP is “present in many plastics, especially vinyl materials, which may contain up to 40% DEHP”. Products made with DEHP include “wall coverings, tablecloths, floor tiles, furniture upholstery, shower curtains, garden hoses, swimming pool liners, rainwear, baby pants, dolls, some toys, shoes, automobile upholstery and tops, packaging film and sheets, sheathing for wire and cable, medical tubing, and blood storage bags” (R). 

Even before a baby is born, elevated in utero exposure to phthalates has been associated with poorer infant executive function, attention, and motor reflexes (R,R). DEHP exposure in utero has been associated with childhood impairments in cognitive, motor, and executive function, as well as with hyperactivity, poor attention, and autism spectrum behaviors (R,R,R). 

Phthalates may interfere with testosterone, affecting reproductive development and fertility. Some studies have found that higher levels of exposure to phthalates in the womb was associated with smaller penises and undescended or incompletely descended testicles in male infants (R).

Some phthalates are banned in children’s products, as well as in some personal care products such as shampoo, shaving cream, and perfumes. However, infants may be exposed to DEHP and other phthalates if they eat food or drink water contaminated with phthalates, breathe it in from indoor air, or suck or chew on plastic toys, pacifiers, or teething guards that contain phthalates. These chemicals can also be absorbed through skin contact and through breast milk. Placental transfer of DEHP has been observed in non-human animals, with harmful effects on the development of the bones, brain, liver, kidney, and testes of offspring. Theoretically, then, prenatal exposure to phthalates such as DEHP could lead to low birth weights and/or skeletal or nervous system developmental problems (R).

Despite some significant lobbying, the CPSC voted 3 to 2 on October 18, 2017 to issue a final rule prohibiting children’s toys and child care articles containing more than 0.1 percent of eight specific phthalate chemicals. This rule went into effect in 2018 and bans children’s toys and child care articles containing more than 0.1 percent of the following phthalates based on recommendations from a Chronic Hazard Advisory Panel (CHAP) which determined that they cause harmful effects on male reproductive development:

  1. diisononyl phthalate (DINP);
  2. di-n-pentyl phthalate (DPENP);
  3. di-n-hexyl phthalate (DHEXP);
  4. dicyclohexyl phthalate (DCHP); and,
  5. diisobutyl phthalate (DIBP).

Prior to this ruling, Congress had already permanently prohibited children’s toys and child care articles containing concentrations of more than 0.1 percent of three phthalates in the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA):

  1. di-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP);
  2. dibutyl phthalate (DBP); and,
  3. benzyl butyl phthalate (BBP)

This means that there are currently eight phthalates restricted from use in children’s toys and child care articles, including cribs, at concentrations of more than 0.1 percent. Some members of the CPSC panel were unhappy with this decision, as were lobbyists for the chemicals industry, who opposed the restrictions on phthalates (see Consumer Safety Regulations and Why They Matter). So, while this ruling seems to be a step forward in terms of safeguarding infant health, chances are it will be quietly rolled back once some current CPSC Commissioners reach the end of their tenure and the current administration appoints new Commissioners more amenable to industry lobbying.

All in all, I’d highly recommend taking steps to reduce the risk of phthalate exposure in infancy, including choosing a crib, mattress, toys, and other products that are made without PVC paints or other plastic components. 

Polyurethane and water-based finishes

Polyurethane may seem like an odd thing to find in a crib, but this petroleum-based chemical is frequently found in wood finishes and can release VOCs. Polyurethane coatings also contain toxic isocyanates (see Formaldehyde and alternatives above).

Water-based polyurethane finishes are more expensive but contain lower levels of VOCs than oil-based finishes. Still, this doesn’t mean that water-based finishes are non-toxic. As I’ve noted multiple times, ‘non-toxic’ is not a regulated term and may just mean that a product meets the minimum federal standard for VOCs (which aren’t all that strict anyway).

Oil-based wood finishes are thought to release VOCs for months or years, while water-based finishes tend to off-gas over just a few days, making it much easier to air out a new crib and other nursery furniture. Most low-VOC clear finishes (including lacquer and varnish) are water-based, using acrylic or polyurethane as binders. This does not mean that the only solvent used is water. Indeed, some water-based finishes include small amounts of glycol ethers, which are toxic.

In general, though, water-based finishes use fewer harsh solvents, petroleum derivatives, or other toxic substances. This makes them better for the environment, and for human health, and makes them easier to clean with just soap and water. If a company sells a crib that is finished with a water-based sealer, ask if this is a low-VOC product (containing less than 250 g/L). Ideally, the company will use a product with an even lower VOC content, such as 50 g/L or less. Oil-based wood finishes frequently contain up to 450 g/L of VOCs.

Again, your best bet is to choose a food-grade oil finish or unfinished solid wood crib. This usually means linseed oil, but some cribs may be finished with beeswax. Check that these finishes are pure and don’t contain any additives. Linseed oil may be polymerized, heat treated, or boiled, for example, in which case it will likely contain a metallic drying agent to shorten drying time.

How to reduce the risk for your newborn

We’ve covered a lot in this article, so if you’re feeling a little overwhelmed, that’s understandable. The big take away, though, is that getting a safe crib for your nursery requires a little more research than simply choosing a style and color and clicking ‘buy’. You’ll need to ask questions (or let folks like me badger companies for you!) and be on the lookout for greenwashing and misleading claims.

The good news is that once you know what to look out for, it’s pretty easy to quickly dismiss potentially unsafe cribs that are likely laced with toxic chemicals. Here are some questions to ask, then, when considering buying a crib from a company other than those I’ve recommended in my review of the best non-toxic, eco-friendly cribs:

  1. Is every part of the crib made with solid wood, or are some components plastic, fiberboard, or other material?
  2. What finishes and treatments are used on the wood, if any? Are these low-VOC or no-VOC? 
  3. If the crib is made with fiberboard or other composite wood, what kind of glues are used? Are they formaldehyde-free, soy-based, water-based, and free from isocyanates and other toxic chemicals?
  4. Does the company carry certifications for low-VOC emissions, such as Greenguard Gold? 
  5. Are all crib runs tested, or are cribs only tested once a year? 
  6. Is the crib made under fair working conditions, such as in a Fair Trade Certified™ facility where workers’ rights and safety are protected?
  7. Is the wood sourced sustainably, with FSC certification?

In some cases, calling the company selling the crib may not get you the answers you need. They may just import the crib, so you’ll want to ask for the contact information for the manufacturer. And, given that many furniture products are required to be sprayed with pesticides upon import to the US, you might also want to ask about this if the crib is made outside of the US.

Some companies include a Frequently Asked Questions section on their website, where other concerned and engaged consumers have already asked questions you might have about cribs. Check these before contacting the company, and be ready to ask more probing questions if you’re not happy with the answers given or are concerned that the answers may be outdated.

Finally, if you have no choice but to go with a crib that may well contain some of the toxic chemicals mentioned here, try to get the crib in advance and let it air out in a well ventilated room or covered outdoor area.