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What Is GREENGUARD Gold Certified?
January 27, 2023

What Is GREENGUARD Gold Certified?

By Sharon Brandwein
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What Is GREENGUARD Gold Certified?.
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What Is GREENGUARD Gold Certified?

Whether you’re a new parent putting together your baby registry or seasoned parents shopping for a big kid bed, you’ve probably bumped into mattresses, cribs, rockers and car seats that bear the GREENGUARD Gold Certification more often than you can count. But what does a GREENGUARD Gold Certified crib or a GREENGUARD Gold Certified mattress actually mean? When product pages and shopping sites offer little to no explanation, that can add even more confusion to an already confusing process.

We’re walking through what a GREENGUARD Gold Certification is, the types of baby gear that may qualify for this type of certification and how to decide if you want to prioritize purchasing GREENGUARD Gold Certified gear (or not) when shopping for your little one.

What Are VOCs?

It’s almost impossible to understand GREENGUARD Gold Certification without first understanding VOCs. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are organic chemical compounds that evaporate easily at room temperature. VOCs can be present in everything from building materials to nursery furniture and from cleaning products to electronic devices.

Although many VOCs are typically colorless and odorless, some materials like paint and mattresses can emit VOCs that cause a noticeable odor in a process known as off-gassing. While these odors can lead to nausea or shortness of breath in some people, they’re not considered harmful in small amounts or in cases of limited exposure.

Can VOCs Make You Sick?

Over time, consistent exposure to VOCs can lead to a host of adverse health issues.

Immediate health effects of VOC exposure include:

  • Eye, nose and throat irritation
  • Headaches
  • Nausea and dizziness
  • Visual impairment
  • Impaired memory

Prolonged exposure to VOCs can lead to:

  • Fatigue
  • Allergic reactions
  • Coughing
  • Sneezing and sinus congestion
  • Shortness of breath

Long-term exposure to VOCs can lead to:

  • Liver, kidney and central nervous system damage
  • Cancer

It’s clear that VOCs can affect our health, and while public health agencies recommend keeping our exposure to a minimum, there are no state or federal laws regulating VOC emissions. Ultimately, an independent organization stepped in to fill in the gap.

What Is GREENGUARD?

Greenguard Environment Institute (GEI or GREENGUARD for short), part of the Underwriters Laboratory (UL), is an independent, non-profit organization that tests for chemical emissions in consumer products.

GREENGUARD offers two levels of testing and certification:

  • GREENGUARD Certified
  • GREENGUARD Gold Certified

What Is GREENGUARD Certified?

A GREENGUARD Certification means that both the item and its manufacturing process were tested and reviewed for over 10,000 chemicals and VOC emissions. GREENGUARD Certified products meet all industry standards for low emissions.

What Is GREENGUARD Gold Certified?

GREENGUARD Gold Certification takes things one step further. In order to receive a GREENGUARD Gold Certification, a product must meet even stricter chemical and VOC emissions standards. Gold Certification was established to meet the indoor air quality needs of sensitive environments like schools, daycares, hospitals and other healthcare facilities, so it’s especially relevant when you’re shopping for baby products.

According to Po-Chang Hsu, MD, MS, and Medical Content Expert at SleepingOcean, GREENGUARD Gold-Certified products are tested to emit even lower amounts of VOCs than products tested to meet GREENGUARD standards.

“One of the primary pollutants that the GREENGUARD Gold Certification checks is Formaldehyde, a toxic gas linked with the irritation of the eyes, nose, throat and skin or the increased risk of nose and throat cancers,” says Hsu. “Products certified with GREENGUARD Gold must have extremely low amounts of these volatile compounds.”

There is one important thing to note, however. “GREENGUARD Gold certification does not check for the chemical content of products but the chemical emissions,” Hsu adds. “This means that they do not check for flame retardants, PVCs (Polyvinyl chloride), lead, or other chemicals that can be potentially harmful.”

The TLDR: The difference between these two certifications is their threshold for emissions. GREENGUARD Certified products meet industry standards for low emissions. GREENGUARD Gold Certified products must meet even stricter standards, which is why you may want to consider this level of certification for any products in your child’s nursery or play space.

Does the GREENGUARD Gold Test Include Lead?

While lead and other heavy metals are harmful when ingested or absorbed through the skin, they do not impact air quality or cause pollution in your home. For that reason, the GREENGUARD certification does not include a test for lead.

It is worth noting that while lead has been banned for use in household products in the United States since 1978, lead may be found in consumer products imported from other countries. For that reason, parents are cautioned to do their due diligence when purchasing toys, toy jewelry, nursery furniture or any type of baby gear. This is particularly important for antique items and those purchased from other countries online.

What Types of Baby Gear Are GREENGUARD Gold Certified?

The ultimate goal of the UL GREENGUARD Certification program is to reduce pollutants in the environment, improve air quality indoors and protect the end users of the products they test. Lots of everyday items like cleaning products, building materials and electronic equipment can be tested for GREENGUARD certification—and so can baby gear and products.

“Since there are many indoor pollutants that affect air quality, especially after opening a new mattress or piece of furniture, these certifications are necessary to know which products might cause potential irritations or long-term health issues,” says Hsu.

If you’re a parent-to-be or a new parent shopping for your baby—and you’re concerned about VOC emissions—here are some of the products you may want to research for GREENGUARD Gold Certification:

  • Crib
  • Crib mattress
  • Other nursery furniture like dressers, changing tables, gliders and rockers
  • Stroller
  • Car seat
  • Nursing pillow

Why Should You Look For GREENGUARD Gold Certified Baby Gear?

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that VOCs are about 10x higher in enclosed spaces. They also estimate that Americans spend approximately 90% of their time indoors. When you pair that kind of time with the possible exposure to chemicals in the air you and your family are breathing, it’s easy to see how and why this type of testing and certification matters and why it might be of concern to you as a parent. GREENGUARD Gold Certified products can help to minimize your child’s exposure to chemical emissions and may be a factor to consider when shopping for baby gear.

There are also phthalates to consider. In recent years there has been plenty of buzz over this group of chemicals that are used to make plastics more durable. More research is in order, but it is worth noting that the American Academy of Pediatrics currently lists phthalates as an additive of concern, and there is evidence of potential adverse effects on the endocrine and reproductive systems of children as a result of exposure.

As you navigate this topic, your first avenue of approach should be a discussion with your child’s pediatrician. If you ultimately decide that you’d rather avoid or at least limit your child’s exposure to phthalates, your best bet would be to stick with products that are GREENGUARD Gold Certified, as the GREENGUARD Certification does not include testing for phthalates.

Does a GREENGUARD Gold Certification Mean That a Product Is 100% Safe?

“Having a GreenGuard Gold certification does not mean that a product is 100% safe because it does not check for all the toxic chemicals that might be in a product,” says Hsu. “It only checks for emissions and VOCs. Therefore, to ensure a product is safe, it is better to check the chemical content details instead.”

This information is provided for educational and entertainment purposes only. We do not accept any responsibility for any liability, loss or risk, personal or otherwise, incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly, from any information or advice contained here. Babylist may earn compensation from affiliate links in this content. Learn more about how we write Babylist content and review products, as well as the Babylist Health Advisory Board.