Did you know the indoor air in a typical modern home is more polluted than outdoor air? This is because volatile chemicals constantly release from the synthetic materials and products we fill them with. These chemicals are known as Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs).

VOCs are chemicals which have low boiling points and can evaporate at room temperature (known as off-gassing) which is how they so easily pollute indoor air and create toxic environments.

Some VOCs are worse than others, and many are known to adversely affect brain function, fertility, sleep, the respiratory and immune systems, cause headaches, dizziness and increase the risk of cancer.

They are becoming an increasing concern because we spend so much time living, sleeping and working indoors surrounded by off-gassing synthetics. Fortunately you can create a low VOC home and detoxify indoor air by identifying the worst off-gassing products, replacing them with natural and non-toxic alternatives.

>


The Most Toxic Materials In Your Home

(& Their Natural Alternatives)


>

Synthetic Carpets

>

Most modern carpets use synthetic fibers made from petrochemicals like polypropylene, nylon and polyester. Synthetic carpets are cheap to produce, but are made from a long list of chemical compounds and may also use harmful fire retardants, antibacterial treatments, toxic adhesives, stain protectants, as well as synthetic dyes and colorants.

  • Polypropylene, nylon and polyester are petrochemicals, products of a highly damaging fossil fuel industry.
  • Toxic dyes and bleaches – Besides from releasing VOCs, toxic synthetic dyes and pigments can often end up in water catchments and river systems during manufacturing as waste water is discharged.
  • Fire retardants are required for synthetic carpets as they are oil based and flammable. Retardants using PBDEs (polybrominated diphenyl ethers) were eventually proven to be highly toxic and banned more than 10 years ago. New chemicals are now used, but manufactures are not obligated to state what they are. They too may one day prove to be toxic, which is why I prefer to avoid synthetic carpets all together.
  • Most underlays and backings are also synthetic using either polyurethane or PVC. PVC is particularly toxic and best avoided.
  • Glues and adhesives bind synthetic fibres to backings and substrates, and can be another source of toxic chemical pollutants.

>

Natural & Non-Toxic Carpet

If you insist on carpet, 100% natural, untreated wool can be a safe and non toxic alternative. Wool is a renewable product and naturally fire resistant, so doesn’t need to be treated with toxic chemical retardants. Wool is also highly durable compared to synthetics and stands up well to years of steam cleaning. Some wools can contain traces of toxic pesticides like DDT, so insist on buying 100% natural and pesticide free, untreated wool. Safe and non-toxic natural wool carpets use backings made from natural materials like hemp or cotton. They will use only water based non-toxic and natural adhesives and dyes, or none at all.

>


>

Mattresses

>

Conventional mattresses are big contributers of VOCs in the home – particularly concerning given their close proximity to us over the long term. They often use toxic glues and adhesives, petrochemical based foams, fire retardants, synthetic fabrics and fillers, as well as textiles treated with chemical pesticides and herbicides.

  • Synthetic fillers like polyester are commonly used. they off-gas VOCs over time and will not biodegrade after use.
  • Fire Retardants – Mattresses are required to meet fire regulations, and so most are treated with Brominated Flame Retardants (BFRs) which are among the most toxic chemicals in a mattresses. Such chemical fire retardants have links to a host of negative impacts on the immune and nervous systems, as well as hormone disruption.
  • Petroleum based foams like polyurethane and memory foam are most common in standard mattresses, and may contribute to toxic indoor air. Memory foam is essentially polyurethane combined with visco-elastic chemicals.
  • Non organic textiles are often treated with harmful herbicides and pesticides which pollute the environment and may off-gas VOCs.

>

Natural, Non-Toxic & Eco Friendly Mattresses

An increasing number of all natural and non-toxic mattresses have arrived on the market due to high consumer demand for safe natural alternatives. Beware of fake natural mattresses as lot of companies incorporate only small portions of natural materials mixed in with conventional ones, allowing them to appear like safer non-toxic alternatives. Scrutinise green claims, labels and certifications where present. This is an area where you really have to do your due diligence and look beyond marketing hype to be sure of what your buying.

Genuine natural mattresses will use only safe, non-toxic and natural materials like organic cotton, natural wool, and 100% natural latex without toxic fire retardants. They won’t use synthetic blends and fillers, harmful adhesives or polyurethane based foams. There are several all natural options you can buy direct from manufactures online, cutting out large retail mark ups all together. Check out the full list of non-toxic and eco friendly mattresses here

>


>

Furniture

>

Most of the furniture in our homes are a combination of synthetic materials like polyester fabrics, polyurethane foam and fillings, composite wood products and plastic laminates. Furniture items are also commonly held together using potentially toxic glues, treated with fire retardants, and use synthetic chemical pigments and stain protectors. Its also highly likely that cheap timber furniture uses imported and chemically treated woods logged illegally from Asian and South American old growth rainforests.

  • Composite wood products often utilise waste wood fibre from the timber industry, but are bound together with toxic off-gassing glues and resins which can contain chemicals like formaldehyde, a common VOC.
  • Laminates are usually plastic based, attached with toxic adhesives, and have an additional top coating of polyethylene.

>

Natural & Local Furniture

Natural and locally made furniture is the way to go. There are also safe composite wood products on the market which are held together with water based, non-toxic glues and resins.

>


>

Paints

>

Conventional paints are derived from petrochemicals, using vinyl or acrylic bases combined with synthetic pigments, binders and solvents. Fungicides and biocides are also added to the mix, all potentially off-gassing volatile organic compounds into the air. Water based paints can also contain many harmful toxic chemicals and can still have VOC levels of between 5-10%.

Research by the World Health Organisation found paint workers with long term exposure have a 40% increased risk of developing cancer – Confirmed by the National Cancer Institute in 2002, with research finding a “significantly increased” cancer risk for workers.

  • Solvents evaporate as soon as paint is applied, responsible for the strong smell in a freshly painted room (also responsible for headaches and nausea if there is inadequate ventilation!) Toluene and Xylene are common petrochemicals in conventional solvent based paints, and both are known carcinogens.

>

Natural Paints

Not all paints labelled eco friendly, natural or green are created equal. Most are merely less toxic and release fewer VOCs compared to conventional paints – SOME toxic ingredients may be removed, but others remain.

Complete natural and non-toxic paints are fortunately available for those who seek them out. Natural paints substitute vinyl and acrylics with natural binders like linseed oil, casein (milk protein) and lime. Borax can be used in place of chemical fungicides, whilst chalk and clay can replace synthetic chemical fillers. Genuine natural and non-toxic paints will be biodegradable and use natural minerals for colouring instead of synthetic chemical pigments.

>


>

Did you know indoor plants can filter VOCs & pollutants from the air? Read the next article for NASA’s list of the best plant species to remove toxins from your indoor air here

>

image of a toxin absorbing plant for healthy non-toxic indoor air

>


0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *