Indoor Air Quality and Construction

Some of the potential pollution in a bathroom can come from building and interior finish materials. New building materials such as paint, manufactured woods, varnishes, adhesives, and plastics can off-gas, or emit chemicals into the air, as the materials age or cure. This is especially true of prod­ucts made from, or with, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as some paints, particleboards, or wood finishes. The heat and moisture in a bathroom can increase off-gassing, or evaporation into the air.

Подпись: Volatile Organic Compounds—VOCs A common hazardous substance is a volatile organic compound, or a VOC. • Volatile means gets into the air easily during use or as it ages. Organic means any carbon-based compound. • VOCs are used in many common household products. VOCs are found in wood preservatives and finishes, composite building materials, glues, adhesives, and solvents. • VOCs have a strong smell, are easily evaporated, toxic, potentially harmful, and flammable. • VOCs can have serious health effects. • VOCs are sensitizers, which are chemicals that may lead to allergic or other serious reactions after many uses. • Side effects of VOC use can include irritation, drowsiness, headache, nausea, depression of nervous system, or cancer.

Choose building materials that have low amounts of VOCs. Many alternatives are available, such as latex paints, water-based varnishes, and low-VOC wood products. Some building materials can be ventilated for 24 to 48 hours before installation in the new bathroom, so that most off-gassing occurs outside your client’s home. Increasing ventilation during and immediately after installation of new building materials is important to good indoor air quality.

The Greenguard Environmental Institute (GEI) focuses on protecting human health and improving quality of life by enhancing indoor air quality. GEI conducts third-party testing to certify products for low chemical emissions, including cabinetry and shower enclosures (www. greenguard. org).

The state of California’s Air Resources Board oversees stringent air quality standards. Among the consumer products evaluated for off-gassing of formaldehyde (a VOC) are composite wood prod­ucts as might be used in cabinetry and construction. Products must meet these standards to be sold in California, but could be marketed as meeting these standards in other locations.