Have you recently moved to a new home? Or are you thinking about building or renovating your home? Read this article before you decide on your building materials and finishes.
When you build a new house there are always a great many things that need to be decided, considered and paid for. But have you considered how your choices will affect your health?
It’s not just older houses that carry health risks. The building materials, furnishings and finishes you choose for your home could have serious effects on your health because of the outgas emissions many of them release. Many home building materials are completely toxic and can pollute the air that you breathe right inside your home. Which is why according to the Environmental Protection Agency, indoor air can be between five and a hundred times more polluted than the air outside.
Luckily there are safe and eco-friendly building options available, and goodbuilding practices that can minimize the air pollution from outgas in your new home.
The first step in keeping your new home healthy is to identify the main chemical culprits. Below is a list of the most common silent health violators found in new homes:
Carpet is almost always made from synthetic materials. These are usually treated with chemicals which protect them from stains and wear. They are also often dyed and bleached with toxic dyes. These chemicals slowly outgas into your home over time –filling your breathing space with toxins. Prolonged exposure to these chemicals can cause shortness of breath, headaches, blurred vision and nausea. Sometimes you won’t feel the effects at first, but after prolonged exposure you will find yourself experiencing symptoms.
If you can, try to choose Green Label Plus carpets which are certified free from 13 harmful chemicals. You could also choose natural carpeting, wool or hemp carpets as these are not made from synthetic chemical based materials. Where possible you might even want to consider replacing some of your carpeted areas with hard wood floors or ceramic tiles.
Fiberglass and Asbestos are both materials commonly used to seal the warmth into your home. Usually a layer of the chosen material is used to line the ceiling and in some cases even the walls are lined with insulation.
The problem with this is that Asbestos is completely toxic, and even fiberglass is hazardous if it manages to get into the air that you inhale. The tiny shards are toxic and easily inhaled if it comes away into the air (for example if it is not sealed away properly). Fiberglass is often made with formaldehyde too. As mentioned in the section above on carpeting, formaldehyde is very dangerous. Formaldehyde is one of the chemicals which outgasses longest after your home has been completed and breathing it in has serious effects on your health.
The Best option is to locate your nearest green building supply store and inquire about healthy insulation options. These include cotton insulation and recycled paper insulation. If you are not sure about the insulation you are about to purchase, a good measure is to ask about installation practices. If the supplier recommends that a respirator or air mask be used while installation takes place then the chances are you shouldn’t breathe it after the installers have gone home, either.
Paint and Varnish
That fresh paint smell that gives you a bit of a headache is actually loaded with more than 300 toxic chemicals, about half of which do cause cancer. These are all usually found in oil based paints. We use oil based paints in our homes because they are long wearing – but there are many water based paints available these days that don’t pose nearly as much of a health risk.
Oil based paints contain the following poisonous chemicals: Kerosene, lead, alkyl resin, lithopone, methylene chloride and mercury. Also toluene, methyl ethyl ketone, xylene and trichoroethane.
These chemicals release vapours into the air that can irritate your eyes, lungs and skin. The worst part is they can keep emitting gases for a very long time after you stop smelling that paint.
So when you are looking at decorating your home don’t just pour over what colour paint you want. Instead you can make sure that you use water based paints first and worry about the colour scheme after. Look for paints and varnishes that are certified as organic and toxin free.
Pre-Fab or Engineered Wood
Pre-Fabricated Wood is a cheaper alternative to hard wood which is often used to build cupboards, wardrobes, counters and even the paneling in your home. The problem with pre-fab wood board is that it‘s created by gluing layers of processed wood chip fragments together. The glue used to bond these layers is completely toxic and often outgasses all kinds of chemicals, including formaldehyde, for a long time after it’s installed.
Formaldehyde is classified as carcinogenic (cancer causing) by the International Agency on Cancer Research. Exposure to it can cause a burning throat, eyes and nose. Asthma, coughing and wheezing are also associated with formaldehyde exposure.
If you can try to use solid wood instead of Pre-Fab wood boards. You can also look for engineered wood products that are accredited as organic and engineered with your safety in mind.
Treated Wood and Sealants
Wood is eaten by all kinds of insects and for that reason we have to take precautions to protect our homes from them. Preservatives and sealants are used to treat the wood against parasites, mould, fungi and bacteria. These are the worst kind of chemicals as they are designed to kill living organisms and that is exactly what they do. They are packed with pesticides, creosote, copper, chromium and even arsenic. None of these are chemicals you want inside your lungs or leaching through your skin into your bloodstream.
Instead of using harmful preservatives, you can choose hardier woods (such as cedar, redwood and cypress) that don’t weather as easily and have your wood surfaces sealed with a simple water repellent. If you do use treated wood ensure that the wood you use is arsenic free. The supplier selling you your wood should know about the processes used to treat if. If they don’t then the probably aren’t too concerned about best practices being followed. Find a supplier who knows where your wood comes from and how it’s treated.
Final Thoughts on Home Materials and VOCs
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are the chemicals most commonly being outgassed through your building materials. These include a range of over 400 compound chemicals, all of which vaporise easily and none of which are good for you. They are found in all of the products mentioned above. You should try to avoid them at all costs.
When in doubt go for a product which is natural and as close to its whole form as possible (just like you would with whole foods). Metal, wood, glass and ceramic tiles are all materials that don’t release harmful chemicals or VOCs. Look for Green Seal (GS) standard products.
These are products that are approved as being environmentally safe. You should also locate your nearest Green Building supplier. There is a huge industry in eco-friendly and human safe building materials – you just have to know to look for them, and then insist on using them.
To protect yourself against all these toxins in your daily life, you should take a good immunity-boosting supplement and eat foods rich in antioxidants every day.
Go to the next page and learn more about the immune boosting elixir to strengthen your body against these toxins.
About the Author:
Emma Deangela is the best selling author of The Alkaline Diet Program and 80/20 Fat Loss. She has helped over tens of thousands of men and women to lose weight and transform their health with sound nutrition advice. Is your blood making you sick? Watch this video presentation and find out how to alkalize your body..
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