I often have new clients mentioning to me that they want to use green finishes throughout their space. When I reply with “would you also like them to be toxic free?” I usually get a blank look on their face in response. This is because most people usually believe “Green” and “Toxic Free” are interchangeable.
Unfortunately, when a product is called “Green” by its producer it doesn’t always mean it is toxic-free as well.
While green usually focusses on using local, sustainable or recycled materials, it does not mean that product is completely free of other elements that contain or off-gas harmful chemicals. In fact, often times, a product will be called “Green” with only one of its elements actually being “Green”. This a factor of green-washing as a product cannot really be green if some of its elements or ingredients are polluting the air not just in the manufacturing process but also in your home.
Wood flooring from an FSC source that uses glues containing formaldehyde (which can cause cancer, asthma and respiratory issues) and/or toluene (which causes damage to your kidneys, liver and reproductive system) etc. and finished with a stain made from polyurethane (which damages your respiratory system)
Recycled glass counters – made with resins which can contain methyl metacrylate (which can affect your nervous system and respiratory system), styrene (which damages the liver and causes cancer) etc.
Recycled Rubber Tiles – these are usually made with recycled tires made from Butylated Hydroxyanisole which is an endocrine disruptor and neurotoxicant, Bensene which is a reproductive and developmental toxicant and Phthalates, an endocrine disruptor.
Not exactly products you want in your house if you are worried about VOC’s and other health destroying ingredients.
Therefore it is important to know what questions to ask when designing your “Green” interiors. i.e. “What else is this ‘Green’ product made with?”
The terms “Green and Toxic free should not be mutually exclusive. If a product is truly green, then it should also be toxic-free. In an ideal world I want all materials that are good for the health of the earth to also be good for the health of myself and my family.