Indoor Pollution? Nothing to Sneeze At!
Q: My entire family has allergies. We’re renovating a new house and need to use as many non-polluting products as possible. We know about using low-VOC paints and avoiding carpets that catch dust and stuff. What else should we be looking for? This is a real problem but we still want our home to be attractive.
A: Lucky for you and your family, the home furnishings industry agrees that indoor air pollution is nothing to sneeze at, and many manufacturers now offer products that let you have your clean air and handsome decor, too. It just makes good business sense, considering how America lives and how many of us have allergy problems like yours.
How we live is mostly indoors. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, we spend some 90 percent of our time indoors, and indoors is where, the EPA says, the air we’re breathing can be five times more polluted than the air outside.
It’s enough to take your breath away, literally, unless you mount a counter-offensive.
You’re off to a good start with low- or no-VOC (volatile organic compounds) paints. Today, most paint manufacturers offer non-off-gassing products that perform as well as the old, offensive coatings. Plus, there are natural paints made the old-fashioned way with ingredients like plant oils and dyes, clay, chalk, and milk casein.
Other manufacturers have also jumped on the eco-friendly bandwagon. Hunter Douglas, the window fashions giant, now offers many window coverings they’ve had tested and certified to meet stringent Greenguard stands for low chemical emissions.
Plus, the company recently introduced honeycomb window shades treated with an anti-microbial fabric finish they say resists the growth of bacteria, mold, and mildew. Learn more about their Venue shades at their website.
Learn more about non-toxic decorating period from eco-expert interior designer Robin Wilson, who chronicled the eco-healthy remodeling of a home for a Kennedy family in her book, “Kennedy Green House.”
Among Robin’s tips:
–Opt for flooring made of hardwood, bamboo, cork, concrete, stone or ceramic tile.
Linoleum is eco-friendly, but avoid vinyl, which off-gasses.
–Look for mattresses made of eco-foam, sheets made of organic cotton, silk or bamboo and shower curtains made of cotton with a nylon liner.
–Always, always use hypoallergenic covers on pillows and mattresses.
The EPA offers two more fresh-air tips:
–Change filters on heaters and air conditioners often. Fresh filters do a better job of collecting impurities in the air.
–Decorate with lots of houseplants — they also help purify the indoor atmosphere. Recommended choices include aloe vera, spider plants, Gerber daisies, English ivy and snake plants — also known as mother-in-law’s tongue! Speaking of sharp advice!
Rose Bennett Gilbert is the author of “Manhattan Style” and six other books on interior design.