Most homeowners and homebuyers would like to avoid the use of chemical compounds, which can be found in most housing components, and, are referred to as VOC’s or Volatile Organic Compounds. They can be in almost any building products, soft furnishings and certain paints that can off-gas, or evaporate, in the home at room temperature. It is likely your home has some, no matter when it was built, so, consider choosing low VOC products as you replace furnishings or components or remodel in future and check to see which ones have the lowest VOC rating.
The off-gassing of VOC’s can happen from installing new paint, kitchen or other cabinets and flooring which can go on for years and expose your family to potential issues such as headaches, eye & nose irritation, certain respiratory issues can be exacerbated, fatigue and lower ability to concentrate or allergic reactions. These are just some of the experiences homeowners have had, and, prolonged exposure, for some, has the potential to develop into more serious issues, especially those sensitive to toxins.
As awareness has grown, many manufacturers developed products with lower toxic emissions, allowing buyers and homeowners to choose from healthier options when furnishing or remodeling their home. Lower VOC options come in flooring, starting with carpeting which is typically loaded with flame and stain retardants and potentially has anti-microbial treatment as well. Avoid treated synthetic carpeting and consider wool or natural fiber carpet free of chemical treatments, along with a non-synthetic natural backing, and look for low VOC padding underneath when installing.
Some laminate and other floating floors use formaldehyde in the gluing process which can cause off-gassing. Solid lumber flooring sealed with a water-based polyurethane labeled as low VOC should help if you can go that route. Look for low VOC options in other vinyl products, especially ones that don’t require adhesives to install. Consider using natural fiber rugs where needed to avoid the issues synthetic or treated fibers might cause.
Today’s kitchen cabinets are often made from a timber composite product referred to as MDF. (medium density fiberboard) MDF is typically bound with a resin containing formaldehyde and other chemicals. When looking to install new cabinetry consider using a real wood product or look for a safer EO MDF with less formaldehyde in the manufacturing process.
Paint is another culprit and the basic wall covering of most homes, so looking for a a water-based acrylic versus solvent based paint, and paints with lighter tints, will help to keep the VOC levels down in your home as well.
Furniture is also a big consideration when dealing with VOC issues, as, many soft furnishings are treated or made from MDF product, so, looking for quality furnishings from hard wood construction, especially in the nursery, will help to lower the potential for off-gassing and ensure a healthier home environment. Sometimes, used furnishing, especially older ones, may have finished off-gassing, so, antique and vintage finds might actually be a smart choice in some situations. If they look a bit dated, you might sand furnishings and use zero-VOC paint to refinish, or reupholster with low VOC natural fibers.
Using air purifiers, non-toxic natural cleaners such as vinegar and baking soda or other home-made cleaners can help keep your environment low in toxins. Also, plants are known to cleanse the air and the Peace Lily among other plants are known to filter the highest levels of Benzene from indoor air.