Saturday, May 31, 2014

Polyvinyl Chloride

Polyvinyl Chloride most commonly known as PVC is commonly found in pipes, vinyl flooring, hoses, swimming pool liners, irrigation systems, weather stripping, gutters, wire coatings, and vinyl siding.

PVC is likely the most toxic plastic to human health and our environment. It contains numerous dangerous chemicals including vinyl chloride, ethylene dichloride, dioxins, lead, cadmium and phthalates.

PVC additives and there effects on the human body

Phthalates – Phthalates are chemicals used in PVC to make them more flexible and harder to break. Phthalates are widely considered to be carcinogenic and may adversely affect human reproduction and development.

Vinyl chloride – Vinyl chloride produces liver damage through both inhalation and oral exposure. In addition, several studies have indicated negative effects on male sexual performance.

Cadmium – Cadmium is a metal. When breathed, cadmium will severely damage the lungs and in some cases can cause death. The metal accumulates in the kidneys and damages filtering mechanisms.

Ethylene dichloride - Ethylene dichloride is carcinogenic. Specifically, it has been linked to incidence of colon and rectal cancer in men over 55 years of age.

Lead – The health effects of lead are widely known. It can negatively affect almost every organ in the human body. Its effects on children are particularly disturbing. It is linked to behavior and learning problems, lower IQ, slowed growth, anemia and hearing problems.

Dioxins – Exposure to dioxins has been linked to several types of cancer. In addition, Long-term exposure has been linked to impairment of the immune system, nervous system, endocrine system and reproductive functions.


PVC products have been banned in Sweden since 1995. Denmark has imposed a tax on its use. In 1998 the United States banned the use of PVC in toys; however, it is still being used widely in building materials. The alternatives to PVC are numerous. Greenpeace has published a list of alternatives to almost every commonly used PVC product. The link to this list can be found below.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Green Building Supply

Now that the myths of green building has been debunked, why not look for safe and non-toxic materials for your next home renovation? Try out Green Building Supply! Their materials are eco-friendly and energy efficient! Don't worry about finding a store location because you can easily shop and order online on their website.

Green building materials of Green Building Supply all meet the following criteria:
1. Non-toxic and safe
2. Renewable, recycled or upcycled
3. Energy-efficient and Energy Star compliant
4. Meet or exceed US or European environmental standards
5. Good reputation in the industry
6. Personally tested by our company

Need more reasons to go green? Compare sustainable vs non-sustainable products and be the judge!

Sustainable products tend to:
last longer
wear better
clean easier
smell better
provide much greater pleasure to their owners
be biodegradable
Non-sustainable products tend to:
be short-lived
require more maintenance
exhibit toxic and foul smells for many months, with some out-gassing undetected for years
compromise the health of individuals and the environment
provide only short-term pleasure
sit in landfills almost forever

If you're curious (and you should be!), you can also learn about the materials used, and why they should replace more hazardous materials in their Learning Center. This includes flooring, cabinets, paint, and more.

So go green and get building! Here are some examples of what Green Building Supply uses! Don't you wish your home looks like this?

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Sick-Building Syndrome – How Poor Indoor Air Quality Can Affect You and What You Can Do About It

There are many factors that can negatively impact the indoor air quality, or IAQ, of the places that we all work and live. Office buildings, apartment complexes and factories all contain airborne particulates and fumes that can degrade the quality of the air that we breath. While any amount of these particulates and fumes can negatively impact our health and the health of our families, there is a threshold of toxicant that, if present in the air, can show as symptoms that classify as a condition called “Sick Building Syndrome”. The National Safety Council defines Sick Building Syndrome as:

Sick building syndrome (SBS) is a situation in which occupants of a building experience acute health effects that seem to be linked to time spent in a building, but no specific illness or cause can be identified. The complaints may be localized in a particular room or zone, or may be widespread throughout the building.
Frequently, problems result when a building is operated or maintained in a manner that is inconsistent with its original design or prescribed operating procedures. Sometimes indoor air problems are a result of poor building design or occupant activities.”

In a perfect world, the building practices and the maintenance protocols for current buildings would be such that airborne particulates and fumes, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), Semi-volatile organic compounds (SVOCs), volatile aromatic hydrocarbons (VAHs) would not be present in our environment, but such a world does not exist, yet. It is extremely important to be able to identify and recognize Sick Building Syndrome and the associated symptoms.

Sick Building Syndrome could be classified, though it isn't officially recognized, as an upper-respiratory condition, though not exclusively. Some symptoms that you should be able to recognize are:

Symptoms of Sick Building Syndrome:
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Eye, Nose and Throat Irritation
  • Fatigue
  • Acute Odor Sensitivity
  • Itchy, Dry Skin
  • Dizziness

An important aspect of Sick Building Syndrome is that, typically, most symptoms dissipate after leaving the the building. However, if the poor air quality is causing SBS, then these symptoms could be experienced for a longer term.

In order to combat Sick Building Syndrome, there are a number of steps that business and individuals can take to help reduce and , hopefully, eliminate the presence of these symptoms.

Methods for Reducing or Eliminating Sick Building Syndrome:
  • The first method is a communication system in which you as an employee or an inhabitant, can express your concerns in a constructive way, to the right people, so that changes can be made to improve the indoor air quality
  • Increased ventilation and air distribution in the home or workplace can reduce the amound pollutants can could be causing SBS.
  • The removal and replacement of building materials that can contribute to indoor pollution:
    • Mold growth from damp, wet areas.
    • Elimination of materials that are known to emit pollutants.
    • Prohibiting smoking.
    • Ensuring that areas in which solvents, adhesives, paints and pesticides are used or store is adequately ventilated and their uses are as minimized as possible.
  • Installing air filters and maintaining them properly.

Being aware of the symptoms that could possibly be the result of Sick Building Syndrome, being educated about possible causes that contribute to polluted indoor air quality and instituting some of these methods that can reduce or eliminate SBS can help us all live and work in a cleaner and more healthy environment.


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Tiny houses!

In the last decade there has been a huge spike in “tiny house” building/living. The basic idea is taking up only as much space as needed and living as sustainable as possible. After all, if you only have 200 square feet, how much “junk” can you put in it? You only have what you need and your material belongs are shrunk. 

Tiny houses take up little space, thus, producing a smaller carbon footprint than their counterpart (large houses) and force you to think resourcefully and responsibly. Some are made from upcycled shipping containers, or prefab kits, made from recycled wood/plastic.

For me, living in a tiny house that I can attach to my car and travel and park for a month, is the ultimate dream, its pure freedom. For others, building a tiny house on a large scrap of land and farming is their ultimate dream. What do you think of tiny houses? Would/could you do it?

Get inspired:

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Protocol for the Evaluation of Sick Buildings

While the building practices that are being used in the contemporary environment are continuously improving, thanks is large part to a the “Green” movement and a socially-charged desire to improve sustainability, there exist a substantial part of our existing infrastructure that has yet to be addressed and improved as in pertains to non-toxic buildings and living conditions.

Many non-industrial buildings have yet to be evaluated to establish overall toxicity levels, VOC emissions and the associated adverse health effects. The article: Building Pathology, Investigation of Sick Buildings – VOC Emissions, that was published in Indoor and Built Environments (2010) by Chuck Wah Francis Yu and Jeong Tai Kim, outlines an important investigation methodology that is being used in the UK that analyzes the level of toxicity, as it pertains to VOC emissions, for new building, completed dwellings and refurbished buildings. This methodology exposes a litany of VOCs that are related each phase of building that pose health threats to the occupants of these dwellings. Yu et al. Describes an analysis protocol that involves the investigation of four major factors that contribute to the toxic living environment. This multi-disciplinary, comprehensive analysis seeks to use a scientific approach to determining the cause and effect of building and refurbishment “failures”, as they describe, that lead to adverse or potentially adverse health effects.

This first of these factors is described as the “historic building pathology”. For each pre-existing structure, or new buildings, building management is surveyed on building concerns such as materials used in the build or refurbishments, ventilation or lighting. The second factor is an investigation of the deterioration of existing building materials that could emit VOCs such as molding plywood and degrading carpet backing. The third part of the protocol is an analysis of the emission of indoor air pollutants or microbial matters that may result from solvents, pesticides and the like. Finally, a comprehensive questionnaire analyzing human factors such as activities and perceptions.

The article later describes an exhaustive list of steps and factors to address for each key phase of the analysis protocol. Obviously, the size and age of the existing building, the number and nature of each refurbishment and the type of building that is being analyzed (apartments, business office, school, hospital) each play a significant role in the time-expenditure required to analyze the building and to provide more toxic-free building alternatives to limit or eliminate VOCs. The important take-away message is that this type of analysis on “sick buildings” can be applied to any size or class of building. This method is applicable, to a diminished level of detail, to the every-day family who would like to analyze their current dwelling or are considering refurbishing their home. The table provided below, as published in Building Pathology, Investigation of Sick Buildings – VOC Emissions, is a useful source that may inform individuals about possible sources of VOC exposure when building or refurbishing their homes.

Citation: Table 2 was taken directly from: Yu,C. Kim, J. Building Pathology, Investigation of Sick Buildings – VOC Emissions. Indoor and Build Environment. February 2010, vol. 19, no. 1, 30-39

While the everyday home owner may not have an intimate knowledge of the adverse health effects of the VOC's listed above, this table may provide some knowledge as to how particular VOC emission present in the home, what their aromas may be an where they originate from.  In a perfect world, this protocol, or one similar and equally comprehensive, can be used to examine existing structures of all types and generate assessments of the overall toxicity so that viable, less-toxic alternatives can be used to create a healthier living and working conditions. 

Source: Yu,C. Kim, J. Building Pathology, Invesitagation of Sick Buildings – VOC Emissions.

Indoor and Build Environment. February 2010, vol. 19, no. 1, 30-39

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Recycled Paint


If you live in the metro Portland area, you can buy low cost, recycled latex paint for indoor and outdoor use. Called MetroPaint, the program collects unused paint that otherwise would have been thrown away, much of it in harmful ways to the environment. Using recycled paint means fewer raw materials are used and there is less old paint in our landfills. They remake it by adding necessary additives and reblending into current colors. The color matching process is very thorough, ensuring that each gallon will match the next.


The Standard MetroPaint, while not low or no-VOC, is still relatively low in VOC’s, with an average rating of 117g/L. While there are not clearly defined limits for calling a paint low-VOC, the Green Seal group has established some standards to gauge by. A flat topcoat paint should not exceed 50 g/L, while a non-flat topcoat paint should not exceed 100 g/L. And they also offer Premium Certified MetroPaint, which does meet the Green Seal standard of being environmentally preferred.

All colors in the line are made of 100% recycled paint. The White and Cream colors are made of at least 50% recycled paint. Check out the available colors here.

Have any leftover paint that you would like to have recycled? You can drop-off up to 35 gallons free of charge at one of Metro's drop-off sites. Smaller amounts can be dropped off at a PaintCare center.

Sustainability and Design Beauty.

The following video is about sustainability in building and the connection with nature. So can sustainable buildings be "pretty?" Can they be "visually appealing?" Sustainable design can have a direct physiological response to our well-being.

Lance Horsey gives a speech that's worth listening to:


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Are Toxic Chemicals In Building Materials Making Us Sick?

People can get asthma because of that, the building materials have chemicals. By seeing suspected and recognized the list of over 1300 flooring of chemicals that cause asthma, all kinds of materials that adhesive, and insulation are reported to the group’s Pharos database. Because of that Walsh’s team determined important list of target chemicals that cause asthma, people can avoid.

There are 20 chosen chemicals that showed the possibility to not only causes asthma attack, but to cause the onset of asthma. Moreover, building occupants could inhaled or ingested chemicals

Even in green building if there is construction to earning a top rating, like as the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification. There is even a probability that these buildings are packed full of toxins, with maybe less of chances for them to disappear.

     Margaret Ross an ExxonMobil Chemical spokeswoman noted that her company has strongly evaluated the safety of their products, and to improve that they meet or exceed the safety and implementation standards of their applications.

         Eventually the point is trying to cut the danger of toxic chemical materials exposures and for doing that they have to start to make a discussion about what kind of product it is used to make the building. In addition, experts said that it is not only building occupants benefit, but it would construction and maintenance crews, and firefighters who forced to breathe toxin fumes released when buildings burn.

 Dr. Howard Frumkin explained that the green building movement appears like building issue, looking at energy, water and resource use.
Furthermore, Hayes said that there is a movement of healthy building, and seen what is the best for people who live in the building. Because of that, they did a comprehensive job to identify methods to build a building that does not have any toxic elements and compounds. 

Monday, May 12, 2014

Green Certification

Green Product Certifications

According to the Green Building Alliance, the demand for green products has grown very rapidly, with some predicting it will reach $70 billion in sales by 2015.  You may be surprised to learn that there is not a single, unified definition of what is green.  This means that a multitude of groups have created various, and sometimes competing, ways of identifying green building products.  This can be through labeling standards, certifications and other systems that evaluate the green claims of the products.  The Green Building Alliance has created a chart that exhaustively lists the many organizations that provide some level of certification.  Take a look and you will see more than thirty listings!  Here are a few:

Energy Star was created by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and is a voluntary labeling program that promotes energy-efficient products and appliances that help to reduce greenhouse gases.

The GREENGUARD Certification Program (acquired by Underwriters Laboratory) ensures that the materials and products used inside homes and other buildings meet strict chemical emission limits through a scientific testing process that provides unbiased, third-party generated data.

The ECOLOGO Product Certification program (interestingly, also acquired by Underwriters Laboratory) rigorously tests products, services and packaging to assess reduced environmental impact.

Green Building Certifications

In addition to the individual green materials, we have to also consider how the building, home, or built environment performs with regard to energy (clean, efficient) and health (non-toxic, low carbon/greenhouse gases).   There are a variety of certification systems for green building practices.  These serve to provide us with a level of trust about the credibility, in large part because it comes from third-party certification, which provides accountability and integrity to the green claims.  Here are some of the programs that focus on the built environment:

The Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) is a program developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) for building certification that recognizes the highest level of green building strategies and practices.

The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is considered the highest standard for credibility in auditing forestry practices that are both environmentally and socially responsible, including certification for responsible Forest Management and transparent Chain of Custody.

The Rainforest Alliance is an international nonprofit organization that works to conserve biodiversity and ensure sustainable livelihoods, and they provide certification services through their RA-Cert auditing program for forestry, agriculture and carbon/climate clients.