Urea formaldehyde, chloride gasses, volatile organic compounds, and toxic mold might sound like the beginning of a toxicology report, but all are actually chemicals and byproducts commonly associated with building materials used in the bathroom. Their presence has been linked to everything from rising levels of childhood asthma to much more serious maladies like cancer, repressed immune systems, and nervous system damage. Green remodeling strives to reduce or
eliminate the presence of these harmful elements, increasing your home’s indoor air quality, and in turn, the health of everyone that lives under your roof. Here is David Johnston’s list of things to look for, and to look out for, in pursuit of the healthiest bathroom possible.
• Investigate your local water supply and install filters on sink faucets and showerheads. Your water will be healthier, taste better, and be safer for bathing, especially for those with chemical sensitivities. Investigate local water quality first, however, since different filters meet different needs.
• Use formaldehyde free insulation, including recycled content fiberglass, cellulose, or rockwool insulation. Traditional insulation materials contain high levels of formaldehyde that can off-gas into your bathroom. That’s bad news, considering the fact that formaldehyde is a documented carcinogen.
• Design with ventilation in mind. The high moisture levels in a bathroom make for the perfect breeding ground for mold and mildew, as well as rot and other moisture damage. Opening windows during warmer months, and installing a bathroom
exhaust fan for the rest of the year, helps to keep moisture levels down.
• Only use water resistant wall and floor coverings. Avoid wallpaper and carpet, both of which can harbor moisture, foster mold growth, and offgas other indoor air contaminants.
• Select low-VOC paints, adhesives, and sealers. Most traditional paints, adhesives, and sealers emit volatile organic
compounds (VOCs) for years after being applied. Low-or no VOC paints, adhesives, grouts, and sealers help achieve higher
indoor air quality levels.
• Avoid MDF (medium density fiberboard) and particle board whenever possible. Both are common materials used in countertop and cabinet construction, and both off gas urea formaldehyde, a known carcinogen. If you do use MDF or
particleboard, seal it with several coats of a low-or no-VOC paint or sealer.
• Avoid vinyl flooring. Vinyl flooring puts off chloride gas, another known carcinogen.
• Replace lead plumbing in older homes.