Off-gassing might be lurking in your home.
Warning: There might be something invisible and unhealthy that’s lurking in your home. It’s polluted air from chemical particles released from certain materials, products and systems, called off-gassing. And it may be at a level that is two to five times greater than outdoor air. A routine home inspection may include tests for asbestos, lead, radon, and termites. Now there’s a new test that can be done to check for off-gassing levels – to measure whether your new home has quality indoor air or if dangerous gasses are present.
While some unhealthy gasses dissipate fairly rapidly, others may linger for months, even years. These may cause health problems, from respiratory illnesses to allergic and asthmatic reactions, and in the worst case different types of cancer. Remember the 60 Minutes TV segment about Lumber Liquidator’s laminate wood flooring made in China? The company’s stock plummeted the day after the show aired because of fear about off-gassing due to the formaldehyde used to fabricate the boards.
There are concerns about other products with a high level of volatile organic compounds, referred to as VOCs, in certain paints, adhesives, glues, insulation, cabinetry, mattresses, countertops, and more. Homeowners anywhere in the country can test their homes for contaminants and toxins. DIY kits are available with accuracy of a professional test, or you can hire skilled environmental investigators and home health professionals to test the air quality level.
If high levels show up, drastic action isn’t always required. "You don’t have to always rip out cabinets and floorboards," says Caroline Blazovsky, author and national healthy home expert, who founded My Healthy Home in Whitehouse Station, New Jersey, to help clients test for VOC levels, along with water safety and mold. "There are many solutions to VOC’s" says Blazovsky. "Paint cans stored in the home are a leading contributor, and excessive use of fragrance from candles, air fresheners, anti-bacterial wipes, and scented products are another. Simply eliminating the items can make a huge difference and provide for a healthier home."
Items like VOC’s, mold in between walls, animal dander, and proteins are not visible so it is extremely important to test and know how healthy your home really is. "Working with physicians has helped me to see our services really benefit patients. Some doctors are willing to look at environments when no other cause for illness is presenting and the results are amazing," she says.
Hiring Blazovsky may cost anywhere from $400 to $800; and an Examinair Professional Allergen and Mold Test Kit www.examinair.net retails for $440 and a Predict VOC Test for $450. She’s a member of the Indoor Air Quality Association, (IAQA), an organization that provides names of certified specialists throughout the country on the its website. Blazovsky is also a certified Healthy Home Specialist through the National Environmental Health Association (NEHA).
There are preventative measures also available in the market. To eliminate VOCs and keep indoor air healthy, you can find a growing array of online retailers that sell merchandise that won’t off-gas, as well as organizations to guide you. Among some of our favorites:
Green Depot is a resource based in Brooklyn, New York, which stocks green, healthy building products and materials. They have 10 locations and 20 warehouses and they review and offer products that meet standards for air quality, social responsibility, being local, energy efficiency and conservation.
Green Building Supply, another resource based in Fairfield, Iowa was among the first to focus on the healthy, green niche. The company carries materials and products that are non-toxic, renewable, recycled or upcycled, energy efficient, and have been personally tested. Store employees will also answer questions over the phone.
TreeHugger touts itself as a one-stop shop for green news, solutions, and product information; and publishes blogs, weekly, and daily newsletters to keep home owners and professionals informed. The site also answers questions such as what are good safe paints to use. A response posted was…"we have a few ideas: YOLO Colorhouse, Sico’s zero-VOC option, Anna Sova are just a few that have graced these pages…."
Green Building Advisor is another source of information about building a green home or tackling a green, healthy project. Editor Martin Holladay, also a senior editor at The Taunton Press, posts articles, answers queries, and has a product guide. There’s a 10-day free trial subscription; after that, a charge.
Environmental Working Group is a nonprofit organization whose goal is to help the public as well as the planet be healthier. It offers guides and articles on various products. One article cited results from the largest-ever testing program for arsenic-treated wood. It shows that the public remains at risk from high levels of arsenic leaking out of pressure-treated wood in older decks, play sets, and picnic tables.