Preferable Products for the Environment and Our Health

Required Reading:

“The Label Game” by Bill Walsh (2006)


I – Air Quality, Health, and ‘Off-Gassing’

IAQ – Indoor Air Quality

VOC – Volatile Organic Compound (carbon-based)

Some of the most common VOC’s emitted from household products, appliances, and finishes include:

  • Formaldehyde (known carcinogen)
  • Benzene
  • Ammonia
  • Toluene
  • Acetone
  • Ethylene glycol
  • Methylene chloride
  • Perchloroethylene
  • Toluene
  • Xylene
  • 1,3-butadiene

Acute exposure measured as hours to days can include eye, nose and throat irritation, headaches, nausea/vomiting, dizziness, and worsening of asthma symptoms. Chronic exposure measured as years to a lifetime to high concentrations can also increase the risk for cancer, liver damage, kidney damage, and central nervous system damage. The symptoms that present themselves and their severity obviously depend on the chemicals that are involved and their concentrations. Also keep in mind that many new products, appliances, and finishes offgas at their highest rates for several weeks or months to a year, then drop off quickly. Often times used products such as furniture are recommended due to having the time to release their store of VOC’s.

{Health Risk Values by Minnesota Department of Health}

{Household Products Database} – US Department of Health & Human Services

{VOC’s in Commonly Used Products} – NY

Third-Party Certifications (organizations that approve sustainable and low- or no-emitting products):

GreenGuard (independent)

GreenSeal (independent)

Scientific Certification Systems (independent)

SGS Group (independent?)

{Carpet}

{Healthy Home Company} – home and health products


II – Architectural Materials and Resources

For sustainability, consider conducting a Life Cycle Assessment, for a products’ ’embodied energy.’ This includes the energy impacts of a products’ raw material procurement, refinement, manufacture, distribution, and expected maintenance.

Consensus-Based Third-Party Certifications (sustainably harvested/sourced/manufactured, energy efficiency, and minimized or no ill effect on inhabitants or the environment):

Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) – wood products

Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) – buildings

EnergyStar – energy efficiency

Harmful Product Databases and Studies:

{Build it Green}

{California Air Resources Board – Toxic Air Contaminants}

Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) – “Efficient Wood Use in Residential Construction”

{Architectural Materials and Resources – I}

{Architectural Materials and Resources – II}

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s