Is your house making you sick?
If you think your new home is unlikely to be affected – think again! The oil crisis combined with societies concern regarding greenhouse gas emissions and the consumption of fossil fuels, has persuaded authorities to enforce legislation to create energy efficient homes. The energy rating schemes which have consequently risen has meant that new homes have become ‘air tight’, comprising of natural (passive) ventilation. Leading building biologist Nicole Bijlsma says due to the rise of continued use of conventional building materials such as particle board, adhesives, paints, sealant’s, solvents and the like, these adversely affect the indoor air quality of the new home by means of emitting toxic gasses into the indoor mass. Currently indoor air is five times more polluted than the outdoor (ambient) air. Australia has the second highest rate of asthma in the world. Could this elevate us to the top of the list? Only time will tell.
What Are Low VOC Building Materials?
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and other hazardous chemicals are contained in many construction materials and furnishings, posing a risk to the general population, especially children. Today a number of low- and no-VOC building materials are available, including less polluting paints, adhesives, solvents, cleaning agents, caulks, wood products, carpets and sealants.
How Can This Improve Air Quality?
Using these low VOC materials for construction and remodelling projects can significantly reduce the emission of smog-forming compounds. New homes generally have VOC concentrations that are two to ten times higher than comparable older structures. These elevated levels have been linked to eye and respiratory irritation, headaches, fatigue and other symptoms associated with “sick building” syndrome. Cleaner indoor air quality as well as reduced smog-forming chemical emissions can be realised by simply using low VOC building materials.
Why Should You Use Low VOC Building Materials?
Benefits of using low VOC building materials include:
- Reduced smog-forming chemical emissions from VOCs.
- Improved regional air quality.
- Improved worker safety and health.
- Reduced short term exposure in relation to incidents of eye and respiratory irritation, headaches, nausea, fatigue and other symptoms of “sick building” syndrome (building related illness). Long term exposure to high levels of some VOCs has caused cancer and affected the liver, kidney and nervous system.
- Cleaner indoor air quality for a more comfortable and productive environment.
- Value-added appeal to property buyers
- The materials we build with can affect our wellbeing as much as the food we eat, the water we drink and the air we breathe. For the most part, we can’t see the toxic chemicals that leak into our indoor air.
- Most chemicals used in building products are not tested for their impact on human health. We may assume everyday building products won’t harm us, but we still can’t reliably know that they won’t.