Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Non Toxic Remodeling

Before I owned The Öko Box, I remodeled old (um, scary old with collapsing foundation ) houses. Remodeling non-toxic was definitely a learning process, but well worth the knowledge and fresh air. The EPA states that indoor air pollution is MUCH higher then outdoor air pollution, the main reason being that we fill our homes with toxic building materials that do out gas for many years to come. The first question I get from most people is Why Would They Sell It If It Was Really That Toxic ? And the answer is that most construction materials are regulated for safety - and that version of safety means that your house won't fall to pieces suddenly, that they are crafted to last, resist, & remain stable through this process of aging. As far as the air you breathe, this is highly unregulated and alot like mixing the wrong prescription drugs, remodeling may end up being one seriously toxic cocktail of substances that can make you sick. That paint can does not come with a warning like "do not apply during the same year as liquid nails, caulk, flooring glue, dry wall..." . The EPA has stated that new construction is dangerous to all children, elderly and chronically ill, but I would venture to say that anything toxic is toxic for us all, even if we are not frail or don't have developing brains. (Feels like mine is always developing !)
The first and easiest thing to start with is paint. This one is extremely important, especially if you are painting a newborn's room. It is now a widely accepted theory in Australia, that SIDS is caused by the toxic materials in a baby's room (new paint, new bedding, new furniture). I tend to agree with this, being that scientifically we know VOCS, formaldehyde, and fire retardants to be highly toxic substances which cause an array of serious health issues. Here is a *No VOC safe paint * list put together by Ideal Bite :

"Anna Sova - get good coat from a paint that's made from 99% food-grade ingredients and renewables.
American Clay - actually a plaster ($14/50 lbs).
Real Milk Paint - for that "adobe"-style look ($46/gallon).
Yolo Colorhouse - limited range of colors, but exquisite in all other ways ($37/gallon).
Bioshield - both matte and gloss finishes. Also check out their all-natural primer and thinner ($30-50/gallon).
Benjamin Moore Eco Spec - used by some of the top eco-builders out there ($25/gallon).
Olympic - low-odor, Green Seal-approved and widely available at Lowe's ($17/gallon).
American Pride Paints - great for people with chemical sensitivities ($22/gallon).
Ecos Organic Paints - for the UK (£15/1 L).
Paint Bucket Grid - save paint and eliminate the need for plastic trays with a paint grid that you hang over the lip of the bucket ($2).
Earth911 - find out where to recycle or donate leftover paint, and check out their paint calculators so you can buy just the amount you need."

*If you take a closer look at BIOSHIELD, you will see they have an array of less toxic products(like oils) - but I want to note here, less toxic may not really be non toxic and if you are chemically sensitive you may need to discern all the ingredients and begin to really think out of the box before buying. (I did a DIY experiment once with wood oil- by boiling olive oil, vinegar, and lots of salt then applied it to a raw wood table. It is still rocking that stain I made and looks beautiful.)
*AFM SAFECOAT has an array of awesome less toxic construction products, like caulking, weather proof sealers, 3-n-1 adhesive, roof guard , oils, stains and No VOC paints (look here at their list):

*Insulation is usually dowsed in fire retardants & formaldehyde to prevent it from spreading a house fire (although if your house is burning that intensely the fire retardant isn't going to stop it - it's more of a psychological application then one of reality). Unfortunately insulation out gases for a minimum of 7 years. Uhg- that is a long time ! The cheapest alternative which can be easily ordered through your local construction supply company is formaldehyde free fiber glass insulation. If you live in a humid climate this would be preferable to the new recycled cotton insulation- which should only be used in dry climates due to possible mildew growth. The newest (not cheapest) thermal management option is a single cell blown foam substance called Icynene. "Icynene® is the leading 100% water-blown foam insulation that minimizes air leakage for increased energy efficiency, creates a healthier indoor environment, reduces airborne sounds and offers greater design freedom. Icynene® maintains its performance with no loss of
R-value over time. It does not shrink, sag or settle. Icynene® adheres to most construction materials and is the perfect insulation for walls, attics, ceilings and floors."

* Flooring is one of personal aesthetics, and now there's a buffet of eco choices - sustainable wood flooring varnished in non toxic coating, bamboo flooring, beautiful cork floors, chemical free carpets, eco ceramic tiles - this is so endless, you will have to do an online search to find your personal floor fancy. :)

For a full and fantastic eco-home resource, try Ecological Home Magazine here @ ! This magazine is full of info and ideas .

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