4 Zero & Low Voc Products You Can Use To Keep your Home Healthy

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In recent years, the phrase VOC’s has gotten a lot of press – some good and bad. So you may still be wondering what are VOC’s, and why does it matter when it comes to your home. VOC’s stand for “volatile organic compounds” and they are present, in varying degrees, in many household items.

These includes household items like nail polish, personal care items, flooring cleaner, and laundry soap.  But VOC’s can also be found in furniture, flooring, cabinets, interior paint, plywood and wallpaper. Some may contain VOC’s naturally, others may be added as a natural result of the manufacturing process, and you may find some products which state “no added formaldehyde” in their labeling. And this is one of the most common and concerning VOC’s –  formaldehyde – so its important to pay attention to labeling.

The damaging effects of exposure to VOC’s varies depending on the toxicity of the chemical, the saturation of the chemical in the air, and the rate and length of exposure. As a homeowner, there are steps you can take to minimize your exposure to high levels of VOC’s in the products you choose for your home.  To begin with, check the VOC rating for all interior products, and you may hear terms like “Carb2” or “Carb1”, LEED, and others (see the end of this post for links to these common phrases to help you learn more about them).

All reputable manufacturers will be able to provide VOC information on the products they are selling now. You want products that contain zero-voc’s, and they are out there if you do your research.

Interior Paint

Next to your floors and ceiling, your walls cover the largest total square footage of your home, both inside and out. It is only natural that you should choose a paint for these surfaces that won’t impact your health. One company offering eco friendly, no voc paint products, is Ecos Paints.

“Many paints labelled ‘eco-friendly’ or ‘zero-VOC1still contain the traditional toxic paint chemicals and give off fumes linked to asthma, allergies and cancer. Our paints are not simply modified traditional products2.
Instead they were developed specifically for people with chemical sensitivities, who could not cope with paint fumes.”

Ecos Paints, About  

This paint company has been formulating eco friendly paints for over 25 years. The paints and finishes they offer are specifically formulated with European inspired pigments, and a proprietary mixing process, that allow consumers to create any color. Traditionally, with low-voc paints, the pigmentation in the paints was not as deep as regular paint.  This led to the additional expense and inconvenience of using more paint, to do more coats, or compromising your intended look all together, for another color.  

Kitchen Cabinets

There are many steps that go into crafting a kitchen cabinet.  Therefore, there are many opportunities to introduce potential VOC-containing products into a kitchen cabinet.  This includes the material that the cabinets are made from, the finish used, the core or backing of the cabinets, and the adhesive to put it all together.

Kitchen cabinet companies, like Holiday Kitchens, offers green cabinet solutions.  Cabinets like this are made with, or available with characteristics like:

  • Low VOC emissions with no added urea formaldehyde (NAUF) options available
  • CARB1 and/or CARB2 Compliance specifications
  • Cabinets or industrial board framing made from recycled or sustainably harvested materials
  • Solid or try wood veneer cabinetry (not made from paper or vinyl)
  • Formaldehyde free sealers and adhesives

When working with a kitchen cabinet company, be sure to specify your preferences and any chemical sensitivities so they can provide the best recommendations.

Interior Furniture & Textiles

When you are done remodeling or building a new home the most exciting part can be selecting the items that will adorn your rooms – sofa’s, bookshelves, pillows, linens and other textiles. One of the last things you want to do is have to worry whether that midcentury modern sofa is off-gassing every time you sit down to watch your favorite movie. But there are companies, like Urban Green that offer furniture , decorative pillows, bedding and other home accessories manufactured in the US, crafted with sustainability and environmental awareness in mind, while avoiding the toxic chemicals and allergens that are present in so many other interior home products.

Some of the features of their products include using natural cushion fill such as cotton, down and wool. Their products are not chemically treated (such as stain and water resistant coatings that may be on many other products). They use solid wood, as opposed to laminate wood, which can contain higher VOC’s if the right core board and adhesives are not used. They also use zero and low voc glues, stains and finishes.

Flooring

Flooring is one of the largest surfaces of your home, like your walls and ceilings, it should take precedence and priority. Not only does it set the stage for the interior design, and quality, of your entire home, but it also impacts the indoor air health quality. Since most flooring made today is mass manufactured, you need to be particularly sensitive to the quality of the flooring you are considering.

One product in particular, which we proudly carry here at smartfloorstore.com, comes from  Toryls Smart Floors, where they have been manufacturing wide plank floating flooring for 25 years, and all of their products meet strict environmental regulations.

When it comes to floor covering, it is a common misconception that solid wood floors are the best choice, after all they contain no engineered backing, or adhesive to pull it all together. But solid wood floors can still contain high voc stains and finishes – so it is important to verify that if you are considering a solid wood floor. Other floors, like vinyl and laminate – are also notorious for having high voc content. Torlys Smart Floors has invested time and research into developing eco friendly floors no matter what type of flooring you choose – cork, laminate, vinyl, engineered hardwood or even leather, which is made from recycled leather.

Watch this video to learn more and check out this helpful info sheet for additional information.

 

Looking for more information and tips, check out this article from the National Kitchen and Bath Association, for interior design planning for clients with chemical sensitivities, from interior design Molly Erin McCabe, AKBD, CGP. As an asthma sufferer, she knows first hand the discomfort one can feel in their home with the wrong products, and provides easy tips to help you choose the right products for your home.

Another great resource for planning for a chemical free house is the website http://www.mychemicalfreehouse.net.

It is important to take the time and understand your options. Globalization of the marketplace has led to a high rate of interior paints, furnishing, cabinets, textiles, and other household goods to be made out of the United States. So even though the US may have environmental regulations for VOC’s during the manufacturing and in the final product, other areas of the world may not have those same regulations. While you can certainly order products made outside the US make sure you do your home work to ensure the products you purchase still meet the environmental standards you expect.

Additional resources:

Want to get more information on voc-free, environmentally friendly flooring, download our free catalog.

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