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March 27, 2012

EcoPlanners: Fighting Toxic Chemicals in Your Home

by Claudia Harmon Worthen, EcoPlanners LLC
Green Goods 1

Fitness guru Jack Lalanne used to say, “If it tastes good, spit it out.”  On the other hand, we can say that if it smells bad, it’s probably bad for you.

Indoor air quality is especially important for children and the elderly.  It may be hard to believe, but American homes today can be as much as 50% more toxic than the outdoor air.  Such a condition leads to unhealthy living.  If the toxins are high and the immune systems of the residents are undeveloped or compromised by disease or age, the home becomes afflicted with  SBS (Sick Building Syndrome), which can cause BRI (Building Related Illness).  What can we do?

To begin with, if possible, remove the wall-to-wall carpet.  When a carpet leaves the house, it can weigh up to 40% more than when it was new.  Imagine your baby crawling around on that carpet.  The process of removing the carpet can be very harmful, so it’s important for carpet installers to vacuum as they pull up the carpets and pad with a vacuum cleaner fitted with a Hepa filter.

After that, do like the Japanese and Hawaiians: take your shoes off before entering your home.  Regular vacuuming reduces pollens and other harmful elements, and it has been proven to be the best thing you can do to lengthen the life of your carpet.  Measures such as these will help reduce carbon and other pollutants.

Carpet can be replaced with a variety of products, such as wood, tile, concrete, stone or Linoleum—but not vinyl.  Linoleum is made of natural products, such as wood pulp, linseed oil and jute, while vinyl is a petroleum product.  You could eat linoleum, but it probably wouldn’t taste very good.

Surface finishes need to be non-toxic and formaldehyde free.  As of January 2011 cabinetry no longer is finished with formaldehyde-infused finishes.  Formaldehyde naturally occurs in wood at non-toxic levels.  What we don’t want to do is add additional amounts of formaldehyde.  Everyone is sensitive to this chemical–some people much more than others.  Some carpet backing is still made with formaldehyde.

If you don’t want to give up on that soft feel of carpet under your feet, vacuum often and try one of these alternatives:

  • Wool carpets/area rugs and other natural fibers–expensive, but well worth it for the luxurious feel.
  • Recycled nylon–this will put out less gas than virgin petroleum products and is renewable.
  • Recycled PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate–a thermoplastic Polymer Resin) water and soda bottles–it makes a fine carpet, is less toxic than new nylon, costs substantially less and can be reconstituted.
  • Nylon carpet can be stripped of color and re-dyed.

Next month, we will talk about plants you can introduce into your home or business that clean indoor air of toxic chemicals.

EcoPlanners, LLC is a California-based network of holistic green building professionals. We help families and businesses to foster happier, healthier and more productive lives by creating beautiful spaces and cost-effective solutions to poor air-quality, resource depletion and Universal Design needs. For more information, contact info@ecoplanners.net.

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