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Maintaining a healthy house

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Check with the manufacturers of the products you are considering buying about their VOC outgassing potential


Check with the manufacturers of the products you are considering buying about their VOC outgassing potential.

Allow new furniture, carpets, and other furnishings to outgas outside the home, or ventilate for up to three days after installation.

If buying a new home, check with the builder about whether he has used VOC containing building materials.

If the house appears to be particularly full of VOCs, do a 'bake-out'. That is, after the house is constructed, renovated or refurnished, heat it to a high temperature, usually 100 degrees F (38 degrees C). All the windows are then opened and the ventilation system is run at full capacity. This process is generally repeated for two or three days. Theoretically, the high temperature will cause the materials in the house to release the chemicals quickly, rather than over a period of months or years.

Reduce VOCs by placing 'absorbers' in the room. These are made from substances such as zeolite or aluminium silicate, to which VOCs have been found to adhere.

Limit the amount of carpet used in the home, and choose carpet with a latex free backing. Do not glue carpet to the floor; use nailing or gripper strips instead.

Avoid carpets with fungicides and permanent stain resisting treatment.

When buying scatter rugs, choose cotton based materials.

Use water based paints and sealers, or seek out low VOC paints.

Choose solid wood cabinets and counters, or if they are made from composite bonded materials, seal all the exposed surfaces with a water based or low toxicity sealant.

Use a balanced mechanical ventilation system, such as a heat recovery ventilator, to continuously exhaust indoor air and replace it with fresh outside air.

Combustion gases

Try to site your gas or oil boiler/furnace in a dedicated room, isolated from the living spaces. If that's impractical, choose a boiler manufactured as a 'sealed combustion unit'.

Cook with electricity as a first choice. If you have a gas range or hob, have the flames adjusted to burn correctly (they should burn blue; a yellow flame indicates incomplete combustion, producing carbon monoxide).

Choose a gas hob with an electronic igniter rather than a pilot light.

Fit an extractor fan near the gas source. The fan should be vented to the outside; carbon filtered recycling hoods simply recirculate the fumes back into the room.


Choose 100 per cent nylon carpets. Wool carpets are invariably treated with pesticides.

Take your shoes off when you enter your house to avoid tracking in pesticides and other chemicals from the outdoors.


Only use electric blankets to pre-heat a bed and turn if off once you are in bed.

Heat water beds during the day, then turn off the heat in the evening before you go to bed.

Avoid placing electrical clocks, fans, radios or answering machines too near your head when sleeping.

Do not place a bed against a wall that is adjacent to a refrigerator, air conditioning unit or fuse box.

Do not site low voltage lighting transformers near the bedroom.

Consider installing a remote control power breaker, so that at night all power to the bedroom can be conveniently shut off.

View TVs and computer screens from a reasonable distance.

To minimise exposure to the high magnetic fields generated in kitchens, maintain a safe distance whenever possible from all electrical appliances, particularly microwaves (a distance of four feet is recommended). Despite their built in safety features, leaks of microwave radiation can occur. Do not use a microwave if it appears to be malfunctioning; treat even odd noises as suspicious.

Your healthy house - make your home a low pollution sanctuary

Me: it's in the water

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