Eco-design - what to look for?

We are living in world where factories, cars, buses and planes discharge pollutants every day, but according to the Environmental Protection Agency many people don't realize that the air inside a home may be two to five times more polluted than the air outside. "The good news is that most indoor air issues in homes are completely preventable and can be remedied with straightforward approaches," says Anna Duncan, associate director of the EPA's indoor environments division.
Here are several things you can do to help safeguard your health and help environment:

  • When remodeling or doing interior decorating, look for formaldehyde-free particleboard, non-treated carpeting, and low-VOC paints and adhesives.
  • When using paint or chemical products, or bringing new furniture or any off-gassing materials into your home, allow the rooms to air out for at least a day before occupying them.
  • When buying furniture look for ISO 9001 (quality) and ISO 14001 (environmental) certified companies
  • Many timbers are also treated with chemicals against biological attack and to increase durability. Choose untreated products wherever possible, and never burn treated wood.
  • Where possible use sustainably grown solid wood or plywood, but if manufactured wood products such as MDF or particleboard are used, cover all surfaces and edges with laminates or seal them with low emitting paint or varnish to reduce emissions of formaldehyde. Look for those made with phenol formaldehyde rather than urea formaldehyde as they are less harmful.

    A good alternative: there are many 'traditional' materials such as limewash for walls, beeswax polish and linseed oil for wood finishing, vinegar and lemon juice for cleaning have no or very low levels of toxicity.

  • Avoid wall-to-wall carpeting - it collects and traps dust, pesticides brought in on the soles of your shoes, dead cells from your skin that feed dust mites. Formaldehyde, used as a color fixative and glues used in carpet backing can outgas for years

Better alternative is carpeting with woven jute backing and no formaldehyde. What I would prefer to install is solid surface flooring that will outlast wall-to-wall carpeting by decades and which can be covered with area rugs that can be periodically shaken and aired out.

More will follow soon...

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