A healthy home.
Often when people hear the phrase "green home," they think of helping to preserve the environment by saving energy, conserving water and reducing waste. Many features of green homes - solar power, Energy Star appliances, low-flow toilets and more - do just that. They promote the environment's health and preserve its resources for this generation and generations to come.
A green home is also a healthy home. Green interior design promotes the health of people and the planet. A conventionally built house is not a healthy house. Standard paint, carpet and furniture off-gas volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which creates anything but a healthy house.
VOCs are carbon-based chemicals that evaporate easily to create ozone, the major component of smog. Yet VOCs are not only bad for the environment, they're bad for people. VOCs cause everything from scratchy throats to cancer and other serious health problems.
Even a healthy house would not be completely free of VOCs because they are pervasive in construction materials and home furnishings, but a healthy house can have reduced, even markedly reduced, levels of VOCs.
One VOC – formaldehyde – actually occurs in nature because trees off-gas formaldehyde. The real problem is not with naturally occurring formaldehyde, but with added urea formaldehyde, which is a carcinogen. Avoiding added urea formaldehyde to build a healthy house is a challenge because urea formaldehyde is added to the adhesives of plywood, particleboard and PDF.
In the last few years, building a healthy house or remodeling an existing house to become a healthy house has gotten easier thanks to the CARB certification. CARB, which stands for the California Air Resources Board, requires reduced levels of added urea formaldehyde in plywood, particleboard and PDF. The certification applies to construction products and to finished products like flooring and cabinetry.
Unfortunately, the implementation of CARB I and CARB II was delayed by the recession since the deadline for retailers to sell off their existing inventory of products with high levels of added urea formaldehyde was extended.
Since many companies did not want to produce a low-formaldehyde version of a product for California and a higher formaldehyde version for the rest of the country, they have reduced the levels of added urea formaldehyde in all of their products. What a boon for those who want to live in a healthy home!
Now the U.S. Congress has officially declared added urea formaldehyde a carcinogen and directed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop national standards for products with added urea formaldehyde based on the CARB guidelines. Thank you to California for helping everyone to create a healthy home!
There are other product certifications that can help you build a healthy house or remodel to create a healthy home.
The Greenguard Environmental Institute is an independent, nonprofit organization that tests and certifies numerous types of products, including bedding, flooring, paints and textiles, for low chemical emissions. Buying Greenguard certified products will make a great contribution to your efforts to create a healthy home. The Greenguard Children and Schools program has even more stringent standards.
The International Oeko-Tex Association, a group of independent European and Japanese testing organizations, certifies textiles (including bedding and window coverings) and clothing as meeting allowable levels of dozens of substances known to be health risks to humans. Its Oeko-Tex Standard 100 is another certification that will contribute to your process of creating a healthy home.
Scientific Certification Systems is a leading third-party organization that provides testing and certification for safety, quality, environmental protection and social responsibility for numerous product areas, including office furniture systems, building materials, flooring, paints, finishes, wood products and cleaning products.
As more and more companies choose to label their products "green" as a marketing tool, using green certifications has become even more important as a way to avoid greenwashing and to find products that have authentic green features. Of course, it is important to find organizations that provide unbiased certifications. Consulting certifications by nonprofits or government-affiliated groups is your best bets to finding authentic green certifications.