Most standard construction materials contain a wide array of unhealthy or toxic chemicals. You don’t need to put these materials in your mouth to be affected by them. The chemicals in the products offgas (release into the room) harmful chemicals. Because you can’t see the chemicals, preventing them from entering your home is more of a challenge.
Volatile Organic Compounds
You know that new carpet or new paint smell? That smell is not a good thing. In fact, what you’re sniffing are harmful chemicals known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs). When you install traditional products, they begin to evaporate and release these VOCs into the air, which results in that familiar odor. Even after the odor goes away, though, these materials continue to release VOCs.
Just because you can’t smell anything doesn’t mean the air is clear. The drying of paints, stains, caulks, and adhesives all can release VOCs into the air.
VOCs can refer to a large number of potentially harmful chemicals. The long-term effects of exposure to VOCs are still not fully understood. Because the VOCs come from dozens of sources around your house, it’s impossible to point to one specific chemical or side effect.
Although you can’t see VOCs, if you build or remodel your home with low- or no-VOC finishes, you’ll notice a difference. A healthy, green home doesn’t smell.
One of the most common indoor pollutants is formaldehyde; the same chemical scientists use to preserve dead bodies. Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen (cancer-causing chemical). Formaldehyde-based adhesives are used throughout the construction process, from kitchen cabinets, to insulation, to furniture. Small particles of formaldehyde continue to be released into the air years after these products have been installed.