An inside look at Chicago real estate

Green Alternatives Have Health Benefits

Mark.Miles By
Mark Miles
   | Green Real Estate

We all know incorporating eco-friendly options into our homes is healthier for the environment, but did you know these choices can also be beneficial to your health? Here’s a couple simple ways to help protect the wellbeing of both the earth and your family.

The age-old practice of reading labels (and actually understanding what they mean) can really come in handy in this case. Some of the materials traditionally used for home construction and decoration have synthetic ingredients which can prove harmful, both to the atmosphere and the human body. One common product that you should look out for is certain types of paint. For the longest time we’ve been trained to steer clear of lead-based paints. Well, if you’ve been to a paint store lately, you probably noticed there are a lot of brands claiming low VOC (volatile organic compound) levels. We certainly want minimal amounts of VOC, however, the problem is many of these “low VOC” paints still contain significant concentrations of toxins that can be hazardous when inhaled. So, how can you assure the paint you buy is both low in VOC and toxins? Paint stores should have a Manufacturers’ Safety Data Sheet which lists any dangerous elements in the merchandise they sell, just ask to see the sheet and you can easily determine which paints contain unsafe components.

Outdoor wood projects are another common home improvement undertaking that deserve special attention when selecting your construction materials. Many people use traditional pressure-treated wood when building decks or fences because the lumber has been infused with chemical elements to fend off decay and insect infestation. Of course, we don’t want the floorboards to rot out from under us, or bugs to make a home out of our fence post, but we also don’t want the harmful levels of arsenic and chromium used to ensure the former won’t happen. Although not necessarily an issue unless ingested, many homeowners are concerned about the toxic chemical quantities; and conservationists are questioning how to safely dispose of the lumber without leading to future soil and water contamination. So, what can you do? Inquire about lumber that is pressure-treated with ACQ (a copper-based formula). It still does the job of thwarting wood rot and insects, but it contains absolutely no arsenic or chromium. It doesn’t cost much more than the typical pressure-treated timber, although it is important to use stainless steel or hot-dipped galvanized connectors because the copper can cause rusting.

The trend towards green home improvements is growing quickly these days. There are lots of other ways to help protect the environment (and your family) all it takes is a little initiative and some research. Plus, I’ll continue to update you with the latest innovations right here.