Asthma is more common in people under 18 years of age. It’s the most common chronic disease among children (asthma.com). The number of children reported to be suffering with asthma has increased - a serious trigger can be the air inside the home. Often the air inside the home can be worst than the air outside. Air inside the home carries unhealthy dust, mold, dirt, pet dander, and gases (VOCs) from chemicals in the carpeting, upholstery, paint, and cleaning supplies. With more efficient, energy-saving housing products, such as windows, doors, and siding houses are tightly “sealed in” which means less air circulation between outside and inside. Those VOC gases in the air that once were able to escape are now trapped in triggering asthma, especially in young children.
What are VOCs?
According to the Sierra Club Green Home: The gases, known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) found in paints, stains, sealants, caulks, and adhesives, release the highest levels of VOCs for days, weeks, months, even years. Meanwhile your upholstery, carpets, and drapes act like sponges, absorbing VOCs and releasing them over time. While not everyone may be bothered by exposure to these gases, they can be a serious health risk for people with chemical sensitivities, asthma, or other respiratory conditions. The good news is most major paint companies now offer at least one low-VOC paint, usually a water-based latex. And a few companies offer a full line of zero-VOC paints. Water-based sealants, stains, and floor-finishing products are available now, too.
Detox your home and breathe easier.
- Start with your kitchen cabinets. My husband replaced our original cabinet doors that were made from plywood and adhesive with hardwood doors. If you can’t afford to replace the doors or build your own from hardwood, you can apply low- or zero-VOC clear sealants over particle board and other pressed wood products to limit adhesive exposure.
- Before you choose your wall paint, research VOCs and which paint have the lowest or no VOC levels which are allergy friendly for those who are sensitive…especially children and adults who are prone to asthama. From Consumer Reports: The federal government caps the VOC content in paint at 250 grams per liter (g/l) for flat finishes and 380 g/l for other finishes (low-luster, semigloss, etc.). However, some manufacturers have opted to comply with more stringent limits—50 g/l for all finishes—set by California’s South Coast Air Quality Management District. These paints include such products as Benjamin Moore Aura, True Value Easy Care, and Glidden Evermore.
(The Ozone Transport Commission, a multistate organization created under the Clean Air Act, also has a model rule that limits flat coatings to 100 g/l and non-flat coatings to 150 g/l. It has been adopted by the District of Columbia and Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia. Any paint sold in these places must be OTC-compliant.)
- We recently painted our den and replaced the carpeting in preparation of our fourth grandchild’s first birthday. Shortly after we decorated, his pediatrician told his parents he has asthama, the cause is unknown but now we are more conscious of what products we purchase. Luckily we live in one of the states that is OTC compliant as stated above and the Stainmaster Carpet and padding we had installed were also low in VOCs.
- Hardwood, vinyl, or tile flooring are each less irritating to those sensitive to allergens. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation offers this advice on home remodeling: Hardwood floors are an ideal type of floor for persons with allergies and asthma. Still, finishing products can cause a temporary reaction to the chemicals used in the process. To lessen these effects, choose varnishes and waxes with low volatile organic compound offgassing potential (ask your paint dealer to recommend safer products) and leave the house while floors are being finished. Ventilate the house for several days. Wait until the odor is gone before returning to the house, do not just ventilate and stay in the house. If possible, have the house professionally cleaned afterward to remove sanding and dusting residue.
- With every change in season, so should your furnace’s air filter be changed. Ideally, it is recommended to change the air filter every 3 to 6 months. To help you remember, write the date you made the change – just remember to check. Since we all get busy. it’s best to change the air filters as the season changes.
- For other household items, choose your cleaning supplies, including laundry items, that are dye and frangrance free. Purchase linens, pillows, blinds, and curtains that are easily cleaned without affecting sensitive family members. Do your research to find certified asthma and allergy friendly products.
One last asthma and allergy friendly tip for every household: have everyone take their shoes off before entering house. When we walk outside, we pick up fertilizers, animal droppings, seasonal allergens, etc, which we bring indoors and leave wherever we walk. With babies, children, and pets playing on the carpet and bare floors, they are exposed daily – and that is not good.