Not in My House! Toxic Building Materials 101 - Part 1

Believe it or not, all the hazardous, toxic materials in our homes are not under the kitchen sink or on the top shelf in the garage. Toxic building materials are a problem that affects almost everyone, and it is hard to know what to avoid. These products are right under our nose and everywhere we turn! So, how do we protect ourselves and our families? 

Over the past century, our methods of construction have become increasingly more reliant on the products of mass-production, the free market economy, and rash scientific research. Many of the building materials we use today are both unhealthy and unsustainable. I shudder to think how we might have wrapped ourselves in products that are literally killing us!

From a public health standpoint, products that we consume or use have often been given a free pass by regulatory agencies without much understanding into their long-term effects. Unfortunately, history has established that hindsight is 20/20. Remember when smoking was socially acceptable and even endorsed by doctors?  

Images courtesy of Stanford University "Research into the Impact of Tobacco Advertising"

Recently, one of our community members asked about the hidden dangers of the materials we use to build our homes. This is a topic that I have often wanted to know more about, too. After some preliminary research, I realized that toxicity in building materials is a rather broad topic, and breaking it down into a short series would help us cover it all bit by bit. We have to keep in mind that if something is bad for a human, it will likewise be bad for the planet. By the end, I hope to more gain assurance in our understanding of what building materials are toxic and how to address them in our homes - both old and new.  

Typical Remodel Home = Typical Toxins

My family recently moved to a newly remodeled home in the Denver metro. I drove a car ahead of the moving truck planning to get the bare necessities arranged ahead of my wife, kids, and Mother, who arrived 4 days later. Getting our 2-year-old twins’ beds assembled was going to be important to all our sanity. After a long drive from Oklahoma City to Denver, I laid down on a camping mat on the floor breathing in all the fresh paint, carpet, and faux wood flooring. Then I fell asleep. 

Image courtesy of PromoRepulic

The next morning I woke with a congested nose and sore throat from breathing in all this “newness”. I immediately knew that the smell was related to some kind of chemical compound used in the production of the construction materials. Good, fast and cheap does not come without a price and I gasp considering the societal effects, much more so when my own family was involved.

Next Time

Now with most of our boxes unpacked, let's open a series on the materials found in our homes. We should absolutely understand our product decisions as we work to renew our homes. After all, Green Heart Town is about “renewing your home, neighborhood, and downtown from the inside out” and this all begins inside our own homes. 

We have been focusing on the neighborhood and downtown realms for some time, so it is timely to begin looking at ways to green our own homes. I absolutely believe that a safe, clean and green home is not outside any of our grasps - even in the most typical case (like my family’s present case) where very few (if any) healthy products were used. 

Next week join us as we dig into Part 2 of this series and identify the kinds of toxic materials to avoid when building a new home or remodeling an existing one. 

Personal Note

It has a little over 2 months since my last entry! Moving my family to Colorado, starting a new job, and getting settled have taken a lot of energy. We are currently finishing a bathroom remodel to boot. All this to say that I did not simply hang up the gloves. I have missed you and will be doing my best to get back into a regular posting routine. Thoughtful writing takes a good bit of effort, and I like to dig in and learn. Thank you for reading, commenting and sharing!