When you take a look inside your own home, you will have a rude awakening when you realize the health problems that you yourself have brought into the very place you are trying to keep safe. Everyday materials that we put ourselves in contact with are the very things that are making our homes dangerous! Off-gassing! If you don’t know the term yet, YOU SHOULD! The chemicals that you are breathing in while you sleep or while you cuddle your baby is something most of us don’t think about, in any means we must start!!
So what is off gassing? “The evaporation of volatile chemicals in non-metallic materials at normal atmospheric pressure”. This means the building materials within your home or office are releasing chemicals into the air through evaporation, which can continue for years after the initial install. This silent stalker is creating these chemicals which enter your lungs on a daily basis, whether you know it or not. It comes from your paints, stains, varnishes, carpet, insulation, flooring, kitchen cabinet and countertops, plywood, particleboard, and paint strippers, producing substantial off gassing in any space. “The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) warns about the health effects of poor Indoor Air Quality from the off gassing of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs).”
Indoor air pollutants such as off gassing is the leading cause for people who suffer with Allergies, Chronic sinusitis, Asthma or respiratory problems in general. Off gassing can cause symptoms ranging from puffy, red and watery eyes to a runny nose, congestion, coughing, and asthma-like symptoms. Off gassing can also be the cause for skin irritations such as rashes, itchiness and hives. The two most identified type of off gassing that you can smell is a “new car” or “new carpet”. Now these smells are obvious but there are numerous products/materials which the off gassing is odourless.
Stockholm University in Sweden conducted a study where they found that certain computer monitors emit a chemical “triphenyl phosphate” which can be the leading cause of allergic reactions. Triphenyl phosphate is a flame retardant that is used in many plastics. When turned on, the monitors' heat causes the compound, which is not bonded to the plastic, to start evaporating. So the question here must be asked, when exposed to such a compound that is typically found in new materials/products can it pose a potential long-term health risk? Apparently they don’t know yet!
Low levels of formaldehyde, a colorless and sharp-smelling gas, can also accumulate indoors from construction materials and household products such as: new furniture, cabinetry, and floor coverings. This is very common. Studies even show that people who are exposed to formaldehyde for a long period of time are more acceptable to experiencing asthma-related respiratory symptoms, coughing and wheezing. Formaldehyde can be found in your paints, varnishes, and floor finishes. You will also find this chemical coming from fireplaces and wood-burning stoves, which commonly cause people to have burning and watering eyes, skin irritation, and even a rash. Other common household items that create off gassing with little to no odour include your bedding, furniture, and cabinetry. We need to be aware of these products and make sure that we are purchasing products that are not harming ourselves or our loved one.
With today’s green movement there are more products out there then ever and is in continual growth, of products/materials that have a low VOC (volitile organic compound) or an off gassing chemical to them. Carpet companies have changed their way of doing things to make sure that they can produce low-emission carpeting and adhesives; such as including natural fibers and latex adhesive to bind the fibers to the back. In the past, the latex binding contained a by-product called 4-phenylcyclohexane (4-PC) that gave carpeting a distinctive rubbery odour. 4-PC was allegedly a cause of adverse health effects. To my knowledge carpeting materials no longer emit 4-PC. You will also be able to find products which are formaldehyde free. As well as products that offer water base stain, furniture that uses all natural substances within them or have less chemical use on their materials which lowers the off gassing emission. For those pieces that you cannot replace there are ways to help protect yourself from the immense off gassing that products can release. Make sure you have regular air movement throughout. For the many offending chemicals, such as formaldehyde, off gassing is at a higher rate when humidity and temperatures are high. Make sure your humidity is below 45 percent to decrease the amount of formaldehyde and other chemicals that will off-gas. Keep your computers in well-ventilated areas and take hourly breaks from the computer to cut down on your exposure.
We must protect ourselves and our loved ones, the way we are all going to achieve this is through education, being aware of what our products are made of before bringing them into our homes/offices. All consumers should have the right to ask what materials have been used to create the product and every company should be able to answer them. You pay for what you get and for the last decade the movement was we want it NOW, which meant materials that were used, were cheap and chemically processed to be able to create a product quick and dirty. Well, there is a new movement and it is quality, and when it comes to quality you pay for it and in some cases you wait for it. Make sure you are a smart consumer when it comes to protecting your air space within your homes or office.
Only Kermit the frog can use the excuse “it isn’t being green” to everyone else it only make sense to be.
Stay green and until next time,
w&c designer girl!