Mobilier Ethique is committed to taking care of your indoor air quality by making furniture not harmful for your health and free of toxic substances.
This article aims to give information on some of the toxicity and VOCs found in most newly bought furniture.
What are VOCs?
VOC means volatile organic compounds. It is both man-made and naturally occurring chemical compounds. The natural ones play an important role in ecology as they are a form of communication between plants and between plant and animals.
On the other hand, most man-made VOCs, coming from coatings, stains and adhesives are dangerous to human health and the environment. Once an adhesive or sealant is applied, it cures or hardens as the VOCs evaporate, releasing substances into the air. It is why you smell an odour as the curing happens.
Harmful VOCs are not acutely toxic but have proven to contribute to short and long-term health effects.
Formaldehyde in furniture
Although there are hundreds of thousands of chemicals used in the home and furniture production, it is not currently possible to test for the presence of all of them. Formaldehyde is a good place to start when measuring these chemicals.
When formaldehyde is present it releases other off-gassing chemicals and it is a good indicator of the overall toxicity. In 2011, the US National Toxicology Program described formaldehyde as known to be a human carcinogen on long term exposures.
The three products that emit the highest concentrations are medium density fiberboard (MDF), hardwood plywood, and particleboard. The half-life of formaldehyde outgassing from particleboard is about one year. However, long term studies indicate that significant outgassing continues for at least five years and possibly longer.
When it comes to VOC levels, choosing furniture made out of solid or reclaimed wood is the most desirable choice.
However the furniture can be tainted with stains, varnishes and paints that contain a high level of VOC’s. it is always good to get information on both the material and the finish used on furniture.
VOC in architecture
EPA (United States Environmental Protection Agency) has found concentrations of VOCs in indoor air to be 2 to 5 times greater than in outdoor air.
Most new builds, contribute to the highest level of VOC off-gassing in an indoor environment because of the abundant new materials generating VOC simultaneously in a short period. There is even a disease called sick building syndrome where people in a building suffer from symptoms of illness or become infected with chronic disease from the building they work in or reside.
How to improve your indoor air quality
Increase ventilation by opening the windows and doors every day.
Avoid smoking inside
Buy furniture made of solid/reclaimed wood or choose second-hand furniture
Use products labelled low VOC strive to reduce the total VOC content. They are better for the environment and approved for use around people with environmental sensitivities, like asthma.
Use house plants like Aloe Vera, Areca palm, Philodendron, Peace Lily