[Good Morning America, with help from the Greenguard Environmental Institute, "set out to investigate exactly what kind of threat indoor air pollution posed to the average person by setting up a child’s nursery with a new crib, changing table, rocker and decorations. Seven days of testing later, the results were in. The air in our new nursery contained 300 different chemicals — compared to just two right outside the same house. The EPA confirms that indoor air is usually more polluted than outdoor air."]
1) If you plan to paint, do it WELL before baby comes. And ventilate the house as best as you can. And use low- or no-VOC paints. (Of course, if there is potentially lead paint in your home because it is an older home, that's a whole other can of worms you should look into).
2) If you plan to recarpet, again, do it in advance, and ventilate, ventilate, ventilate.
3) If possible, use solid wood furniture in the nursery, though I found this cost-prohibitive. Look for water-based sealants and the Greenguard certification, which identifies products that have a lower chemical emission.
4) If you buy new furniture, open it outside and let it air out (and thus off-gas) for as long as possible (in a garage or covered area). You could always buy used furniture (as long as you're sure it hasn't been recalled) and not have to do this.
5) Used is
I had a really hard time finding affordable furniture for my baby that wasn't pressed wood that would emit formaldehyde and other unseemly things. I did the best I could, but sure wish there were more affordable options out there. This post has some creative ideas, but still, I wanted quality, real wood, sustainably harvested - and affordable. It just doesn't exist. Yet. This post has some suggestions on getting the best that you can on what does exist, though, sadly, we're pretty much stuck buying low-quality composite wood furniture.
The one thing I did splurge on was my baby's organic mattress. I figured if I off-gassed her furniture and ventilated her room really well, I could meter some of the toxins, but since she'd be laying on the mattress, I felt it very important to make this as safe and nontoxic as possible. I'm really glad I went with this decision. This article has great suggestions for reducing toxins in bedding. I went with the cheapest Naturepedic crib mattress, which in the long run wasn't terribly expensive. And if you really just can't bring yourself to fork over the money, read this article for a great alternative.