A good number of our customers suffer from a broad range of symptoms that have been associated with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity and mold illness. Since indoor air pollution is a key factor, Organic Lifestyle reached out to Corinne Segura, a Building Biologist, writer of the blog My Chemical Free House, and consultant on chemical-free building and decorating to get her perspectives on how you can improve indoor air quality with green building products that offgas less.
On ECO Insulation:
For non-toxic insulation, I generally suggest clients start with Batt Insulation that can be found at your local hardware store. If you have multiple chemical sensitivities, test out a few and see how you do with them. Most people will start with Roxul and formaldehyde-free fiberglass and see how they do with those.
The standard Roxul has formaldehyde but it does fully cure in a relatively short amount of time. They have just come out with a formaldehyde-free option. There are a number of fiberglass brands that are very low in VOCs.
EcoBatt by Knauf is made with a natural binder but does give off ammonia.
Owens Corning and Johns Manville Fibreglass insulation have GreenGuard Gold Certification. (For healthy eco-minded folks, the GreenGuard Gold certification will provide you with the peace of mind that the product in question, has been independently reviewed by a recognized authority.)
Another affordable option is cotton batt insulation.
For the 3.5” thickness, you get an R-Value of 13. It is made from new denim scraps and does contain boric and ammonium sulfate and an olefin binding fiber. The recycled content will be a draw for zero waste advocates.
Another option you may find locally is Great Stuff. Great Stuff and Handifoam have similar levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Handi-foam is a little lower VOCs and has the added benefit of being Greenguard certified. Small amounts tend to be odorless after a few days of curing.
On ECO Sealants & Adhesives
Ecobond is generally the best-tolerated caulk.
How does it test wet, after 24 hours and after two weeks?
If you are applying it yourself, Ecobond is usually the safest bet for your health.
Ecobond claims zero VOCs, though every caulk still has a rather strong smell when wet. If you have time to let things offgas, GE ll 100% silicone may be just as good after two weeks of curing. For some exterior uses, silicone may be needed.
Quartzlock grout is a popular product that has some benefits over more basic grouts. It is self-sealing and much more waterproof than basic grout. They claim “ultra-low” VOCs but this may still be strong for really sensitive folks. You may want to test it after it has had a couple weeks to cure. Depending on the time frame you have for your build or renovation you can compare the benefits of a grout that does not need to be sealed versus a basic grout like Polyblend sealed with AFM Grout Sealer. In the end, something that will hold up in the long run to mold and mildew and doesn’t have to be sealed every few years has a lot of benefits.
On ECO Paints, Stains & Finishing
Hemp Oil is a much-overlooked wood finish.
It has a very light natural scent and does not give off noxious VOCs like traditional wood oils such as linseed and tung. Hemp is a drying oil which means it penetrates, hardens and preserves wood and provides a long-lasting finish that does not turn rancid. You want refined hemp oil which is different than the hemp oil used for cooking. The downside of floor oils is they need to be reapplied every few years and they don’t give you a hard waterproof finish. But, if you want the purest option, hemp oil is one of my top choices.
For something longer lasting, more waterproof and easier to clean than a natural oil, go with a basic, low VOC clear finish. You may find that these finishes become odorless very quickly. Some finishes like this one can either block, absorb or neutralize VOCs.
Eco Cleaners & Strippers
Benefect Botanical Disinfectant is a natural disinfectant that uses thyme as the active ingredient. The disinfectant kills 99.99% of bacteria and is virucidal so it is ideal to use on taps, handles, and in the bathroom to sanitize in and around the toilet. The other main ingredients are SLS (which can in some cases be contaminated but is generally considered safe to use as a surfactant and is biodegradable), and copper sulfate pentahydrate. While all these ingredients have been labeled as food safe, I myself would not want to ingest these so I would not use it anywhere where food may come in contact with it. It also has fungicidal properties and many people use it to clean up small amounts of surface mold or cross contamination.
AFM Carpet Shampoo and Sealer
AFM Carpet shampoo is a very well tolerated non-toxic carpet cleaner. It can also help to remove odours from the carpet. Carpet harbors a lot of dust, pesticides and all kinds of toxins, so you want to clean your carpet on a regular basis. This product is zero VOC.
If you have carpet that is still off-gassing, I would recommend using this with AFM Carpet Seal and Lock out. That is your best defense against an off-gassing carpet that you can’t remove.
Learn more about our Guest blogger, Corinne Segura.
She is a Building Biologist, writer of the blog My Chemical Free House, and consultant on chemical-free building and decorating.
“I am affected by MCS and mold illness myself and I have been building safe structures for myself for a number of years. I work with the most sensitive of the sensitive, healthy folks, and everyone in between. I gather my data from testing done on materials, information from the companies, my own testing and the experience of the most severe “canaries”. I continue to stay up to date on new materials and best practices in this fast-growing field. In my previous life, I worked in community development and research, and I hold an HBA from the University of Toronto.”