I started this website in February 2010 to get our home LEED certified….which we did in May 2011! You’ll find each LEED for Homes credit (there are 87) analyzed in blog posts: whether and how we got the point(s), the costs and benefits. This blog continues as we try to live sustainably in our home and I share our experiences.

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Healthy Home Tip #6: Look for No- and Low-VOC paints, sealants, adhesives and coatings

You know that new paint smell? Does it every give you a headache or irritate your sinuses? That’s because most paints contain VOCs – volatile organic compounds. VOCs are a class of carbon-based compounds that readily become volatile under ordinary atmospheric conditions. In other words, they are gases that are emitted from certain solids or liquids, and they can have adverse health effects.S2W5-paint image

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), VOCs are emitted by a wide array of products numbering in the thousands. Examples include:

  • paints and lacquers
  • paint strippers
  • cleaning supplies
  • pesticides
  • building materials and furnishings
  • office equipment such as copiers and printers
  • correction fluids and carbonless copy paper
  • graphics and craft materials including glues and adhesives, permanent markers, and photographic solutions.

What’s the health risk?

There are many known health risks to VOC exposure: Eye, nose, and throat irritation; headaches, loss of coordination, nausea, memory impairment; damage to liver, kidney, and central nervous system; allergic skin reaction; fatigue and dizziness.


Healthy Home Tip #5: Do Not Use Antibacterial Products

Why do we use anti-bacterial soaps and cleaners? Because we are all basically germophobes, and we believe that using these types of cleaners will help keep our families healthy.

Antibacterial products have taken off in the market place, primarily due to advertising that preys on our fear of germs that will make us sick. Indeed, companies that market these products are good at it. Below is an excerpt directly from Walgreens’ website (who’s tagline is “At the Corner of Happy & Healthy” – seriously?!):

 Antibacterial hand soaps

If you’re concerned about germs, antibacterial hand soaps can be a good investment. Hand soaps that are antibacterial not only remove grease and grime from your hands – they can also kill disease-causing germs that you come in contact with every day. There are several brands that sell antibacterial hand soaps available from Walgreens.com such as SoftSoap, Lyso, and Dial.

 Benefits of germ-killing soaps

Killing germs is essential in some work settings. If you work or run a business where germs are a serious detriment to the health of your workers and customers, investing in antibacterial hand soaps should be a top priority. Triclosan is a common antibacterial ingredient that is added to these soaps to give them their germ-fighting properties. Keeping a antibacterial liquid hand soap pump at every sink will ensure that everyone in the work place has access to germ-killing soap. These benefits will also come in handy in your home. Almost everything people come into contact with is covered with germs. Washing your hands with antibacterial hand soaps ensures that none of the germs you pick up will cause an illness.

I’m sold! But wait…what does antibacterial really mean?


Healthy Home Tip #4: Make your own household cleaner

S2W4A-choices S2W4B-choicesLet’s start with the obvious question: what is wrong with household cleaners? The big picture answer, which will span the rest of the tips in this Season, is that there are at least 83,000 chemicals on the market today, and for the most part they are not well regulated. And the simple truth is that exposure to chemicals is linked to cancer, birth defects, asthma, allergies, skin reactions, reproductive disorders…the list goes on. Sometimes illnesses stem from over exposure (acute), which is an immediate one-time reaction that can trigger chronic illness; sometimes illnesses come from long-term exposure that builds up over time. The problem is, we do not know!

Why? First, ingredients often are not disclosed. Unlike packaged food, cosmetics, and personal care products, manufacturers of cleaning supplies are not required to list the chemical ingredients on consumer product labels (though many do).

Second, even if we do know the ingredients, it would be very difficult to even conduct a controlled experiment, because there are too many uncontrolled variables (we aren’t just exposed to one chemical in our lifetime), and we do not typically conduct experiments on humans!

The fact is that many chemicals actually do the job of cleaning pretty well, so that is how they are marketed. Nobody actually goes into a store and asks for the most hazardous product on the shelf – they just want to get the job done.

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