Research has shown that our interior spaces are 2X to 5X more polluted than the outside. Wow, I was shocked when I first heard this! The danger is that we cannot see or, most of the time, smell the toxins in the air, so we breathe them, day in and day out, not realizing that our health is potentially being compromised. So, what can be done? How can an interior designer help? The answer has several parts, so let's take them one at a time.
First, let me explain that all surface finishes have the potential to release or "off gas" toxins into the air. These are called Volatile Organic Compounds, or VOC's.There has been an alarming increase in asthma reported by the American Lung Association, and this has partially been linked to the VOC levels in our homes. The culprits that you are probably familiar with are paint and carpet. If you have ever smelled fresh paint, or newly installed carpet, then you have been bombarded with VOC's! This initial deluge of gases does dissipate with time, but how long does it really take? Not smelling it anymore does not mean that it is gone. The worst thing a young couple can do is to put down new carpet in a nursery or young child's room, or anywhere that they will be on the floor, without first having the carpet off gassed before it is installed. That is the solution. Carpeting should be off gassed in an open space for 2 weeks before it is installed. This can be done at the warehouse before it it delivered. The paint problem is much easier to solve. There are now many zero VOC paints and primers on the market, made by all of the major paint suppliers. For example, Sherwin Williams has Harmony. www.sherwin-williams.com/do_it.../harmony_interior_acrylic_latex/
Another everyday culprit are the cleaning supplies that are used to keep our spaces clean. The suppliers have recently come out with "green" products that are safer for the environment and better for us to breathe. Follow this link to get more information. www.cleanaircounts.org/lowvoccleaningprodcuts.aspx
There is also off gassing from fabric finishes (furniture, window treatments, bedroom linens, etc.), furniture finishes, flooring finishes.... and so on. It's amazing just how our interior choices actually can affect our health! What can you do? Call a knowledgeable, environmental interior designer that can help you select the appropriate furnishings, finishes, and materials to make your home or office a safer place to live. Your lungs will thank you!