According to the EPA, poor indoor air quality is one of the top five hazards to human health. Indoor air quality can be three to five times worse than outdoor air quality, even if you live in the city. There are a plethora of reasons for this including the cleaning products you use, your HVAC system and especially the building materials you utilize indoors. Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), formaldehyde and petroleum distillates are released by interior finishes for years and are responsible for respiratory and allergy symptoms, especially in children. Now a new generation of sustainable, healthy indoor finishes are available to the discerning home owner.
We are all aware of the dangers of lead-based paints, but even lead free paints have tested high for VOC content. Now a new generation of low-VOC or zero-VOC paints give homeowners a healthier option. The new range of paints is every bit as durable as their unhealthier predecessors, but with a plethora of health and environmental benefits. The water-based paints are easier to clean and release fewer landfill, groundwater and ozone depleting contaminants. The paints are a far better choice for everyone, especially those with respiratory ailments, allergies or chemical sensitivities.
Interior and exterior wood sealants can be crammed with harmful toxins. Now you have non-toxic choices that have no harmful chemicals and also seal in the arsenic that occurs in pressure-treated wood. These new sealants are mostly soy-based and penetrate the wood for long-lasting protection. You can use them on everything from decks to furniture for an odorless, safe and environmentally friendly solution.
Non-toxic wallpapers and pastes are available, but due to a lack of demand, you may find them extremely expensive. Water-soluble wallpaper paste is solvent free, non-toxic and free from fungicides, preservatives and synthetic resins. Better still, you can make your own! See the recipe here. If you want natural, sustainably grown wallpaper, opt for bamboo wall coverings. The textured surfaces can give your room a really interesting appearance.
Alternate Wall Finishes
Particleboard and medium-density fiberboard (MDF) utilize urea formaldehyde binders. The products off-gas formaldehyde (a known human carcinogen) for 5 years or more. Particleboard and MDF are used for a number of finishes in homes including countertops, for cabinet boxes, shelving, and stair treads. Formaldehyde-free particleboard and MDF products are available, including some made with straw instead of wood fiber. These products have almost zero emissions and provide a far healthier alternative.
Low VOC stucco and plaster products are also available in a wide variety of options. Tiles are another great way to ensure longevity. Here recycled glass tiles or reclaimed mosaics provide the most sustainable options. Glass tiles are durable and have zero emissions.
Ceramic and porcelain tiles are also devoid of VOC emissions, just make sure your grout is also VOC free!