Building and Remodeling When You Have Asthma and Allergies: Paint, Flooring and Insulation

 

Before you start a home building or renovation project, consider how the products you use or install may impact the overall health of your home. During construction, a lot of dust is generated and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) can be released. Recent studies have found an association between asthma episodes in children and exposure to home renovations (installation of new flooring or new interior paint). It’s important to consider choosing materials that emit fewer gases or other asthma triggers. Also, family members (especially children, pregnant women or seniors) with asthma should not remain in the house during renovation projects.

paint iconPaint

What is it that makes some paints better for the indoor environment than others? And what does it mean if a paint is CERTIFIED asthma & allergy friendly®? It is not possible to make paint without using chemicals. We identify paints that do not contain ingredients that are unnecessarily harmful. We look at three things when we test paints in an environmentally controlled chamber:

  1. We paint a sample surface and measure all the VOCs released over 14 days to make sure levels remain low.
  2. How well does the paint perform? Paints should stick to the wall properly, dry in a reasonable time and withstand scrubbing to clean a reasonable level of stain from them.
  3. What are the chemical components of the paint and their concentrations? Are any of the chemicals known to irritate skin and/or eyes? If yes, are they present at a level low enough that they are unlikely to cause problems?

flooring icon yellowFlooring

Some types of flooring can release VOCs when installed, especially if they use an adhesive. And it is easier for allergens to get trapped in some types of flooring. Our Certification Program tests and certifies luxury vinyl flooring, sheet vinyl flooring, vinyl tile, linoleum and sports flooring.

For hard surface flooring to be CERTIFIED asthma & allergy friendly®, it must pass the following tests in an environmentally controlled chamber:

  1. We measure the VOCs released for 14 days after installation. If the flooring is designed to be used with adhesive, we include the adhesive in the test, so that we accurately recreate the installation experience.
  2. We introduce allergen-containing test dust into the chamber, allow it to settle and then clean it. We want to make sure that the allergen can be removed, and to make sure that allergen levels in the air do not increase substantially during cleaning.

insulation iconInsulation

The release of VOCs from fiberglass insulation during and after application can impact people with sensitive airways. Fibers, airborne particles and dust can be released during and after installation. And some insulation can support mold growth.

In order for fiberglass insulation to be CERTIFIED asthma & allergy friendly®, it must undergo the following tests in an environmentally controlled chamber:

  1. During the installation, we measure the amount of dust and small fibers that are released into the air. We agitate the dust and fibers during this test to mimic a person walking around near the insulation. We set strict limits on what is produced.
  2. We measure all of the VOCs released from the insulation over 14 days to make sure levels remain low.
  3. We place mold spores on pieces of insulation and keep them at a high temperature and humidity for four weeks to see if the mold spreads.
  4. We do a detailed assessment of all the materials used to make the insulation and what concentration is present.

Are There Paints, Floors and Insulation That Are Definitely Safe?

Unfortunately, no. Given the variability between people and the variety of sensitivities and allergic responses that different people can have, it is simply not possible to say a product will not cause sensitivities for anyone. Our Certification Program aims to help you create a healthier indoor environment by reducing your exposure to asthma and allergy triggers. More information is available at aafa.org/certified.

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