Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Is your house safe?

Your home might not be as eco-friendly as you think, and that could be bad for your health as well as the environment.

Yes, we'd all like to have home sweet home, but unfortunately our homes may be doing us more harm than good.

As we snuggle up on the sofa for an evening in front of the TV, few of us spare a thought for the huge number of chemicals and additives surrounding us, although studies have shown that our indoor environment is now up to 10 times more polluted than the external environment.

Many modern materials and finishes commonly used in the home contain high concentrations of substances with a proven track record of causing illness. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are among the worst culprits and can be found in carpets, underlays, paints, varnishes, insulating materials, seals, adhesives and a wide range of other products.

Today our homes tend to be far less draughty than they used to be, so pollutants can't escape very easily; they are also much warmer, so pollutants are released more rapidly, and there's a much wider use of petrochemicals in furnishings and fittings, meaning pollutant levels are far higher to begin with.

Several countries have now begun to legislate to improve air quality, with the European Union committed to reducing deaths from air pollution to 40% of the 2000 level by 2020. But in the meantime there are plenty of steps we can take to reduce the toxicity of our homes - and most of them are not just good for our health but good for the planet too.

Unfortunately though, most readily available paints and finishing products contain high levels of toxic chemicals and a high proportion of plastic derived from the petrochemicals industry.

The environmental impact of synthetic paint manufacture is huge, with one tonne of paint often producing 10-30 tonnes of toxic waste. Natural wall coverings such as Zen Wall (www.japanesewall.com), on the other hand, are made from materials that are plentiful in supply and need little processing, such as sand, diatomite earths, clays, gypsum and natural straw etc.

Some of the large, well known paint manufacturers are taking notice of growing concern about the risks from VOCs and have introduced "low-odor" and "low-VOC" paints. But they are still not deemed to be as risk-free as natural products, and some people fear that a lack of odour from the synthetic paint could mask potential chemical dangers.

Opting for a natural product doesn't have to restrict choice either, as there are a number of companies offering a huge range of beautiful colours, textures and finishes, or you could even experiment and make your own paint or stucco using a traditional recipe.

Natural Zen Wall which does not produce much odor, really does make them a superb choice for any home, and particularly for those people with asthma, eczema or any other type of chemical sensitivity.

Friendly Note: If you're not in a position to make radical changes to your home, then the best way to improve the air quality is to use non-toxic cleaning products, increase ventilation and invest in some house plants such as aloe vera, weeping fig, ivy, peace lily, spider lily etc.

Tests carried out by NASA have shown that common house plants remove pollutants as they go through their natural process of photosynthesis. Amazingly, they can pick up, through the small openings in their leaves, gases such as formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, benzene, cigarette smoke and ozone.

No comments: