How do you free your house from toxic chemicals? The simple answer is: Avoid dangerous chemicals (VOCs) in the design and construction of your healthy house!
However, implementing this solution isn’t always so easy.
Volatile organic compounds or VOCs are chemical contaminants that are found in many common building materials.
These chemicals contain carbon, making them organic which allows them to emit toxins into the air that we breathe.
VOCs are found in many household cleaning products, personal care items and in construction materials.
Some materials that contain volatile organic compounds may initially release toxins and odors into the air and then, as the material ‘de-gasses’, it may become somewhat inert. That is, the material is much less toxic and causes little to no air contamination.
Many products, however, continue to release toxic chemicals over a prolonged period of time and are a health hazard.
VOCs Are Toxic Chemicals
Avoiding these dangerous chemicals to the greatest degree possible is a major goal in healthy house construction, especially as it relates to indoor air quality.
Replacing standard building materials with green building products that are no VOC or low VOC is absolutely necessary if you want to build a new home or remodel a portion of your existing house.
It can be a challenge to go through your materials list for a construction project and trade out conventional products for the non-toxic, green alternatives.
However, the explosive consumer growth in the chemical free and green market has made it relatively easy as compared with even 10 years ago!
Dangerous VOCs are found in these common building materials:
- Glues and Adhesives
- Sealants, Caulks and coatings
- Wall covering products
- Paints, stains and varnishes
- Fuels used for heating
- Carpet and Laminate flooring
- Vinyl in flooring and other products
- Textiles & furnishings
Some materials are manufactured with various levels of VOCs, so each type of product can be different in its degree of toxicity and length of time it may emit toxins.
For example, kitchen cabinets that are constructed with OSB (oriented strand board) emit a huge level of VOCs as compared to cabinets that are made from solid wood.
Pressed board contains formaldehyde and other dangerous VOCs that continually release toxins and odors into the air, sometimes for years.
Natural wood, obviously, does not contain synthetic chemical compounds and is always safer for humans.
There are many health symptoms associated with VOC exposures.
These symptoms can include:
- Skin irritations or rashes
- Itchy, watery, or burning eyes
- Throat and nose irritation
Then of course the degree to which a person’s health is affected depends on many unique personal factors that are not always measurable from person to person.
That’s why some people develop minor irritations only when exposed to the materials and others experience permanent health damage with a similar exposure.
Some exposures cause syndromes such as Environmental Illness, Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, Sick Building Syndrome, Asthma, Allergies and a host of other illnesses. Damage to bodily organs can occur and even death in some cases.
These variables effect the degree to which any person may react to any given chemical compound:
- Amount of each chemical that present in a house
- Length of time a person is exposed
- Level of toxicity the chemical is to human health
- Degree of sensitivity a person is to the chemical
2 Ways to Avoid Toxic Chemicals in the Home
- Choose no VOC or low VOC building materials
- Choose best HVAC system for good indoor air quality
There are still other design principles to consider in order to avoid air contamination, such as humidity control, dust control, proper cleaning methods, toxicity of other basic structural materials and more.
However, applying these 2 important healthy house design principles at the outset of any construction project is the way to free your house from toxic chemicals for a safe, healthy house environment.