Saturday, January 20, 2018

Toxic Homes

September 19, 2010 by  
Filed under Healthy Homes, UV-C Air Sanitizer

New House Smell & Off-Gassing

You’re considering the purchase of a newly-built home and you’re impressed with that ‘new house smell’ when you walk in the front door.

Don’t be:  that smell comes from chemicals in the products used to build, insulate, paint, and furnish the home.  Some of the chemicals are even pretty nasty when they get into the air.  Many home building materials contain what are called VOCs – volatile organic compounds – that start out as liquid but turn to gas at room temperature. If they’re in a home designed and built to be nearly airtight and energy super-efficient, the VOCs stay and do their damage.

The ‘off-gassing’ – the release of the gases in to a room – begins as soon as the product is exposed to air, and it can continue indefinitely.

More Reasons Why Your Home May Be Toxic

Spray-in foam wall and ceiling insulation, for instance, has been implicated in (mostly anecdotal) reports of enhanced chemical sensitivity and neurological disorders two years or more after installation, even though the vast majority of the polyurethane in them evaporates and disperses within hours.  But some consultants don’t allow the use of any foam insulation in their clients’ homes.

Even low- or no-VOC wall paint contains some volatile compounds (the government says the ‘no’ in ‘no-VOC’ doesn’t really mean ‘no’).  Most of them evaporate and disperse within hours, but some painting experts say it can take as long as a month for the paint to cure to a dry, durable surface.

Products made with formaldehyde will release the gas into the air

Some flooring and many cabinets and counters, either built in or brought in, are constructed with what’s called medium density fiber board that is made of wood scraps held together with resins.  It is sold as an alternative to solid wood and plywood, but the resins usually contain formaldehyde.  The fiber board, and similar products referred to as press board and chip board, is usually covered with veneer or vinyl that reduces the formaldehyde off-gassing, but the Minnesota Department of Health says, “Products made with formaldehyde will release the gas into the air.”

The EPA states the most common symptoms of exposure are irritation of the eye, nose and throat, coughing, headaches, and dizziness.  The EPA further states that the effects of long-term exposure to low levels of formaldehyde are not well known, though longer-term exposure to high levels of the chemical has been shown to cause cancer.

Is household furniture harmless?

Furniture cannot be considered harmless.  The frames of some chairs and sofas are made of medium density fiberboard, and upholstery used in the manufacture of furniture could contain formaldehyde and other compounds (perfluorooctanoic acid, a likely carcinogen, according to the EPA) to resist stains and water.  Fabrics could have several other chemicals, including benzidine, a known carginogen, in the dye.  And older furniture could contain polyurethane foam with chemicals  –polybrominated diphenyl ethers  — that are considered so harmful they have been banned in California.  Vinyl chloride, also used in the making  of some furniture, is listed by the EPA as a carcinogen that can cause liver damage.

How toxic is carpeting?

Carpeting consists of mostly synthetic fiber, a couple of layers of thermoplastic polymer backing, and a latex adhesive to hold it together.   The good news:  Allergy Consumer Review says carpet and rug manufacturers have begun, at the instigation of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a program to produce lower-emission carpeting and adhesives.

What Can You Do To Reduce the Risks of Toxins?

As Consumers you can do the following:

  • Study Labels to find the products that pose the fewest risks and have the fewest harmful effects
  • Invest in a UV-C Air Purifier and other devices to remove pollutants from  the air
  • Provide plenty of ventilation with open windows and fans
  • Keep up and read Good Changes Now for regular Tips for “Better Living With Healthy Products”


3 Responses to “Toxic Homes”
  1. Icare_dou says:

    Actually one of the biggest sources of formaldehyde in homes is the fiberglass wall insulation. The formaldehyde can no longer escape through the exterior wall because it cannot penetrate the exterior house wraps used but goes right through drywall. An exterior wall with sun exposure will produce signficantly more formaldehyde because formaldehyde increases rapidly with small increases in temperature. The off-gassing will continue for decades. The carpet underlayment installed in my home back in 1963 was still increasing the formaldehyde concentration in room air to 13 times the maximium concentration recommended by the State of California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessments. It is no wonder the rate of asthma and cancer started increasing with the energy codes that required homes to be wrapped in insulation. It has only been three decades and we still claim that we don't understand.

  2. Fbarrett says:

    Well. Back to lath and plaster walls, anyone? Area rugs on solid wood or tile/stone/terrazzo floors? I wonder how chemically similar the interiors of new cars are. Fairly so, I should think.

  3. Owl Woman says:

    Exactly the kind of info I, as a new homeowner, need to know. Thank you!