15 May, 2019

Healthy Home Tips for Intentional Clean and Safe Living-Eliminating VOC’s in your Building Materials

Eliminating VOC's in your Building Materials is this month's Healthy Home Tips for Intentional Clean and Safe Living.  I'll never forget the moment when we were at our celebration party for the net zero and LEED platinum home featured in this post and someone made a comment about how the house does not smell.  You know that new construction smell I'm talking about, right? It tends to stay around for quite some time but in this house there was none.  It was delightful.  Eliminating VOC's in your home is an easy step to improving you and your families' health.
VOC's are Volatile Organic Compounds or better yet, gases that are emitted from certain solids or liquids.  VOC's are harmful to our indoor air quality and are harmful to our health.
Common items where VOC's can be found:

  • paints, paint strippers and other solvents
  • wood preservatives
  • resins or dyes
  • mattresses
  • aerosol sprays
  • cleansers and disinfectants
  • moth repellents and air fresheners
  • stored fuels and automotive products
  • hobby supplies
  • dry-cleaned clothing
  • pesticides
  • adhesives and glues

Health effects may include:

  • Eye, nose and throat irritation
  • Headaches, loss of coordination and nausea
  • Damage to liver, kidney and central nervous system
  • Some organics can cause cancer in animals, some are suspected or known to cause cancer in humans

This post is focusing on the 2 building materials/finishes that are found in your home and easy ways to eliminate them in your current home or to not use them if you are building a new home.  They are paint and wood stains and finishes.
Healthy Home VOC 1

Safe Interior Finishes

Navigating your way through what is safe for use in your home when it comes to paints and wood stains along with adhesives and glues is tricky but in the past 5 years or so manufacturers are making it less complicated and being more transparent about what is actually in their products.  I actually think it is a badge of honor as so many companies are making or have made the shift to healthier, safer products for us and the environment.
Some things to look for when selecting your paints:

  • Green Seal-11 certified
  • Water-based latex
  • Low or no VOC (less than 50 g VOCs per liter)
  • Low-VOC color additives
  • No “antifungal” paints
  • No formaldehyde-releasing preservatives
  • No Phthalates
  • No Glycol Ehters
  • No Crystalline Silica
  • No metals: Cadmium and Chromium
  • No Nonylphenol Ethoxylates

For a deeper dive check out EWG's Healthy Living Guide found here.
Healthy Home VOC 2

Wood Stains and Finishes

This one may seem like you have less control of if you are sourcing out your cabinetry, doors, built-ins and furniture but you do.  Asking the cabinet shop, builder, or whoever is making your product to use a safe stain is simple to do.  If you are purchasing furniture that is already made, you can check out the Sustainable Furnishings Council Wood Furniture Scorecard, and see if the manufacturer is listed there. If they have a low score, see if they have taken a pledge to improve.  I find resources like this invaluable, and so thankful they are here to help us out!
Things to check the label for:

  • Water-based stains and finishes
  • Green Seal-11 certified
  • Stain VOCs: less than 250 g/L
  • Finish VOCs: less than 350 g/L
  • No petroleum-based solvents, heavy metals, phthalates or glycol ethers

Again, check out EWG's Healthy Home Guide for further information on Wood Stains and Finishes found here.
Healthy Home VOC 3
At LiLu, our intention is to bring you the best and healthiest options to you no matter if you have asked us or not.  Your health is one of our top concerns when designing your home, and we would be honored to design your project.  Remember that you don't have to do all this research yourself or start from scratch.  There are many great resources out there helping to get health, safe products into your home.
Recap of websites to use:
Environmental Working Group: EWG Healthy Home Guides
Sustainable Furnishings Council 
My Chemical Free House
U.S. Green Building Council 
Forest Stewardship Council
Healthy Home Eliminating VOC's

Comments on Healthy Home Tips for Intentional Clean and Safe Living-Eliminating VOC’s in your Building Materials
  1. Linda Merrill says:

    Excellent and important tips Lisa! Pinned!

  2. Janet Lorusso says:

    Such an important consideration. Thanks for all the great links to check on product standards!

  3. Sheri Bruneau says:

    Thank you for providing some great resources!

  4. Leslie Carothers says:

    I love that you listed specifics re: what to look for with respect to VOC levels, Lisa.
    This is an excellent post – thank you for furthering the conversation around wellness in the built environment.

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