🤔Chemicals: What’s in your home?🤔

Do you REALLY know what is in your home?

or, more specifically, on your walls?

Today we are going to look more closely at what is REALLY in your home and on your walls.

Hi everyone! Thank you for reading blog!

As humans, we don’t really think about the paint on our walls… yes, we see the color, yes sometimes we even smell the paint… but have you ever wondered what you’re breathing in? Have you ever wondered what you’re children are exposed to daily?

More specifically we are going to compare Lacquer with Emerald Urethane.

Lacquer is a liquid made of shellac dissolved in alcohol, or of synthetic substances, that dries to form a hard protective coating for wood, metal, etc.

Catalyzed lacquer is a hybrid reactive finish that cures chemically, not solely through the evaporation of solvents

Lacquer has over 600 VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) they are the gases emitted from the product.

Click here to read how we GO-GREEN with our low VOC products

“EPA’s Office of Research and Development’s “Total Exposure Assessment Methodology (TEAM) Study” (Volumes I through IV, completed in 1985) found levels of about a dozen common organic pollutants to be 2 to 5 times higher inside homes than outside, regardless of whether the homes were located in rural or highly industrial areas. TEAM studies indicated that while people are using products containing organic chemicals, they can expose themselves and others to very high pollutant levels, and elevated concentrations can persist in the air long after the activity is completed.” – EPA

Even though lacquer has such a HIGH VOC level painters still choose to use it because it dries quickly and is a good resistance to household chemicals.

Click here for all of the chemicals in lacquer.

Symptoms of Lacquer Poisoning:

Home Care

Now we will share some information about the LOW VOC  – Emerald Urethane from Sherwin-Williams.

Emerald Urethane has a less than 50 VOC level.

Click here for the data sheet from Sherwin-Williams site with all of the chemicals in Emerald.

The higher the VOC level, the longer it will take for it to clear the air. High VOC levels can cause harm to the painters and those who are in the home, even after the painting is complete.

Possible health effects include:

  • Eye, nose and throat irritation
  • Headaches, loss of coordination and nausea
  • Damage to liver, kidney and central nervous system
  • Some organics can cause cancer in animals, some are suspected or known to cause cancer in humans.

Key signs or symptoms associated with exposure to VOCs include:

  • conjunctival irritation
  • nose and throat discomfort
  • headache
  • allergic skin reaction
  • dyspnea
  • declines in serum cholinesterase levels
  • nausea
  • emesis
  • epistaxis
  • fatigue
  • dizziness

Tips to reduce your VOC Exposure:

Tip 1: Buy only what you need

When it comes to household chemicals, break the habit of buying in bulk to save money and simply buy what you need. Stored chemicals are a major source of VOCs, even when the container is closed up tight. Whenever possible, buy low-VOC versions of products. Many “green” brands are only slightly more expensive than conventional versions.

Tip 2: Store smelly stuff in a detached shed

Paints, paint thinners, pesticides, and gas cans are a major source of VOCs. The further away from your house you store these smelly items, the better. A detached shed is ideal. Use it to store gas-powered tools, too—lawn mowers, snow blowers, and chain saws.

If you have leftover pesticides, paint, and other chemicals, contact your municipal waste department to find out where you can dispose of them safely.

Tip 3: Seal off your attached garage

If you have an attached garage, you’ve got vehicles with VOC-producing gas tanks right next to your living area. Plus, if a detached shed isn’t an option, you’re likely to use your garage to store your chemicals, gas cans, and other VOC-spewing products.

If that’s the case, seal up any connections between your garage and living area. Weatherstrip your garage access door, and make sure that the threshold gasket is snugged up tight.

Sometimes connections aren’t obvious—loose holes around ductwork can leak garage air into your basement where an air return duct collects and disperses VOCs all over the house. Button up these gaps with caulk and foam sealant.

Tip 4: Your nose knows

Weather permitting, open windows and run exhaust fans when you’re working with paints and pungent cleaners. Trust your nose—if you can smell it, you’re whiffing VOCs. That includes any time you bring vinyl or plastic items (say, a new shower curtain) or dry-cleaned clothes into the house.

If weather permits, remove covers and packaging from items and set them outside for a while to off-gas—at least until they don’t smell. Schedule major interior paint jobs for good weather so you can open up windows.

Tip 5: Exhaust your possibilities

Bathroom and kitchen fans are great for removing VOCs from the air, especially because cooking and cleaning can release some potent, even carcinogenic, compounds. But if you run exhaust fans constantly, you create negative air pressure inside the house that may draw air—and VOCs—from your attached garage into your home.

Run fans until any chemical or smoke smell dissipates, then turn them off. If you use your garage as a regular work area for VOC-generating hobbies, such as woodworking, install an exhaust fan to the outside. Exhaust fans cost $250 to $400, installed.

Tip 6: Ditch the air fresheners

The health evidence against plug-in and spray air fresheners is mounting; many emit chemicals and ultra-fine particulates that aren’t identified on the label. Some also contain terpene, a fragrant chemical that’s widely found in natural substances, such as pine resins.

But when confined inside a house, terpenes react with naturally occurring ozone in the air and form compounds that have long-term effects on the respiratory system (asthma, for example).

The alternative? Keep a clean house, use environmentally friendly cleaners, and get a whiff of pine scent while taking a nice long walk outside.

Tip 7: Read the label

Before hiring a painting company or purchasing your own products, read the label and know the product!

Refuse the use of ANY high VOC products in your home.

VOCs health hazards

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are solids and liquids that convert easily to gas or vapor at room temperature. VOCs are contained in many paint products and have been linked to a variety of health problems—watery eyes, headaches, asthma, respiratory diseases and cancer.

Common paint VOCs

Common VOCs in paint include ethylene glycol (the same chemical compound found in antifreeze), formaldehyde, benzene, and a variety of other flammable or toxic chemicals. The paint’s materials safety data sheet (MSDS) lists the hazardous materials the product contains. Laminated MSDS sheets are usually displayed in paint stores, or you can download them from a paint manufacturer’s website.

When inhaled, solvents like benzene, which are added to paint to allow it to spread easily, can be absorbed into the blood stream. Some paints also contain toxic fungicides to halt mildew growth, along with biocides, which are used to extend the product’s shelf life.

Some VOCs have also been linked to cancer, especially for people who are exposed to them over a long period, experts say. A 2002 National Cancer Institute study revealed that men and women who work in the paint industry had a “significantly increased risk” of cancer. Paint manufacturers use combinations of up to 15,000 chemicals used in various paints, with the more dangerous chemicals including benzene, chloroform and dichloromethane, according to a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services report. Benzene is known to cause leukemia in humans, the report noted, and several other paint chemicals are suspected of causing cancer as well.

Painting safety tips

UL and other experts also recommend:

  • Keep the air moving. Paint in areas that have good air circulation. If you need to, use window fans to help the paint dry sooner and get rid of emissions. Make sure to leave the windows and doors open.
  • Protect your eyes. Use eye goggles or safety glasses to reduce the risk of paint splashing in your eyes.
  • Don’t breathe it in. Wear a breathing mask when sanding, or a solvent respirator when working with solvent-based products.
  • Create a kid-free zone. Keep children and pets out of the painting area.
  • Stick with water-based paints. These paints generally pose fewer health risks than oil-based, solvent paints. Oil based paints, stains, and products, typically contain more solvents and can emit higher amounts of gases. It’s safer to use these products outdoors or in areas where there is excellent ventilation. Solvents are also highly flammable.
  • Read labels carefully. The label on that can of paint contains some valuable information, including drying times, warning labels and other important information. Always know what you’re working with.

Below are tips to help From VOC to other hazards:

1) Old smoke alarms

Smoke alarms should be replaced after 10 years to make sure they’re in good working order, says Owen Davis, spokesman for the National Fire Protection Association. There are two types of smoke alarms, ionization and photoelectric, which use different technology. Ionization smoke alarms contain a small amount of radioactive material, so safe disposal is important. Check to see if your state’s radiation control program offers collection of expired smoke alarms or mail the alarm back to the manufacturer, the EPA recommends.

2) Pesticides

You’ve gotten rid of the cockroaches, rats or other pests that invaded your home, but now you’ve got leftover pesticides. The best way to get rid of pesticides is to use them up, the EPA recommends. Once you have an empty bottle or can, you can throw it in the trash unless the label on the bottle directs another method of disposal. If you can’t use what’s left, look for a friend or neighbor who might. If you don’t have any luck, check with your city or county for hazardous waste disposal rules. 

3) Paint

Your walls got a fresh coat, but now you’ve got a few partially full cans of paint on your hands. How to dispose of them depends on the answer to this question: oil or latex? “Oil-based paints are considered hazardous wastes,” Holtzman says, adding that you’ll have to dispose of oil paint through your local hazardous waste disposal program. However, many local governments allow you to put latex paint out with regular household trash if the paint has been dried out, she says. Never dry out oil paint, though, because that releases hazardous fumes.

4) Mercury thermometers

If you need to see if your tot is running a fever, the EPA recommends using non-mercury thermometers. But if you do break a mercury thermometer, follow these mercury cleanup stepsrecommended by the EPA. Once you have the broken glass and mercury in a paper towel sealed in a zip lock bag, check with your city or county on how to dispose of items containing mercury. Or search Earth911.org for local and mail-in programs.

5) Expired medications

Do you have expired flu medicine, unused pain pills or other drugs in the back of your medicine cabinet? It’s a good idea to get rid of old medications, but don’t just toss those bottles in the trash. First, check the drug label and patient information for any specific disposal instructions, the FDA recommends. In general you can dispose of drugs by dropping them off at a hospital or pharmacy that has a medication take-back program, according to the FDA. Or you can mix many medications with cat litter or coffee grounds and throw them away in the trash. However, there is a short list of medications you should flush down the toilet instead to make sure no child or pet ingests the drug, according to the FDA.

6) Lightbulbs

Old-fashioned incandescent bulbs can go in the trash when their life is over, but fluorescent bulbs are a different story. They contain a bit of mercury gas, so they require special disposal. Check with your local hardware or home improvement store to see if they recycle them. Or look for a disposal site by searching Earth911.org.

When a compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulb breaks, clear kids and pets out of the room and put on gloves, Holtzman says. Then turn off your central air or heating system and open a window or door to air out the space for several hours, the EPA recommends.

Use stiff cardboard to gather up any glass fragments, and put them in a glass jar with a lid or in a sealable plastic bag. Then, use sticky tape to pick up powder or tiny glass fragments. (The EPA offers more detailed cleanup instructions.) Check with your city to see if you must take the broken bulb to a recycling center or if you may toss it in your household trash.

7) Insulin needles/sharps

Stick sharps in a hard plastic sharps container as soon as you’re done using them, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends. If you don’t have a sharps container, you can buy one at a pharmacy, medical supply company or through a health care provider. Or, in a pinch, use a sturdy plastic container, such as a household laundry detergent bottle, with a tight-fitting lid. Label the container: “Sharps: Do not open.” [Contact your local trash disposal service or health department to find out how to dispose of sharps containers in your area. You might be able to drop off the container at an approved collection site at a hospital, pharmacy or health department, according to the FDA.

8) Cooking grease

When you’re done cooking up a skillet of bacon, don’t throw the grease down the drain, garbage disposal or toilet. Fats can clog pipes and lead to plumbing backups. Pour hot beef, chicken or pork grease into an old coffee can or other sealable container, then cool or freeze until it’s solid. Vegetable oils won’t harden like other fats will, so put them in a container and add coffee grounds or kitty litter to sop up the oil, then put a lid on it. You can throw these containers into a covered household trashcan, Holtzman says.

9) Sharp stuff

Sharp items such as broken glass, razor blades and old kitchen knives can seriously cut anyone handling the trash or sorting through your recycle bin. Never throw these items straight into your trash. Instead, put any sharp objects that aren’t contaminated with body fluids or chemicals into a sturdy box or other puncture-resistant container and tape it tightly shut, Holtzman says. Then, take a marker and write “sharp objects” on the box in big letters.

10) Appliances

If your old fridge, stove or dishwasher kicked the bucket, don’t take it apart or toss it outside. Old appliances may contain hazardous substances such as mercury, used oil and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), according to the EPA. First, check with your electric company to see if they offer a “bounty program” that will pay you cash for turning over an outdated, inefficient appliance, the EPA recommends.

If there’s no program in your area, contact your city or county to check disposal rules. Some cities offer “bulky item pickup” for appliances. Before you put a refrigerator, freezer, washer or dryer in front of your house for pickup, take off the door so children can’t get trapped inside, Holtzman says.

11) Antifreeze

The antifreeze that keeps your car rolling on cold days can harm people and pets. Ethylene glycol and propylene glycol, the most commonly used types of automotive antifreeze, are poisonous, so it’s crucial to discard used antifreeze properly, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Never pour antifreeze on the ground, in a septic system or down a storm drain. Instead, check Earth911.org to see if a recycling center in your area takes antifreeze for recycling. Or call local automotive shops to ask if they accept used antifreeze. Otherwise, check with your city or county for disposal rules.

Click here to read more about Eco-Friendly paints by Sherwin-Williams.

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