4 Substances to Steer Clear of When Creating an Environmentally Friendly Home

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Are you using safe paints for your loved ones?
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Knowing what you need for an eco-friendly house is easy: energy-efficient systems, properly insulated walls and windows, a small indoor herb garden, and other typical upgrades. However, do you know what to avoid? The chemicals and materials used in some of the more fundamental components of your home, such as adhesives, construction materials, and paint, might emit hazardous toxins that impact you and your family. Here are four substances to avoid at all costs.


Organic pollutants known as VOCs are present in a wide range of everyday household and office items, including paint, cleaning agents, permanent markers, and furniture. They jeopardize indoor air quality and can cause side effects ranging from headaches and nausea to liver or kidney damage. To avoid them, look for “low-VOC” or “no-VOC” versions of your favorite products, purchase only the amount you need, and utilize them in well-ventilated areas.


Phthalates, a type of chemical, are found in everything from perfume and shower curtains to glue and insecticides, making them difficult to avoid. According to the National Library of Medicine, phthalates exposure comes from “air, water, or food,” and while the effects aren’t definite, they are “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.” To avoid them in the kitchen, steer clear of food packaged (or stored) in plastic or cans and heat up leftovers in glass bowls rather than plastic.


Formaldehyde is most commonly found in mass-produced construction materials and pressed-wood products, such as plywood paneling, MDF, and particleboard, that are held together with formaldehyde-heavy adhesives. According to the EPA, formaldehyde emissions can cause watery eyes or nausea, and it has been linked to cancer in lab animals. To minimize your risk, search for pressed wood items that are constructed with phenol resins rather than urea resins and ensure that your home is well-ventilated.


If you want to reduce your environmental impact when designing your home, try to avoid using petroleum as much as possible. And that doesn’t only mean purchasing a hybrid vehicle and switching to alternative energy sources. Petroleum is utilized in everything from paraffin wax and Teflon to nail polish and plastic, according to Mother Nature Network. The easiest way to reduce your usage is to become a more conscientious shopper and think twice before buying anything new.

Additional Information

More Useful Links

  • Ways to Save Energy at Home
  • The Most Effective Energy-Saving Measure You Can Take
  • 22 Tips for Conserving Energy and Water in an Apartment


  • “VOCs: An Introduction to Indoor Air Quality.” United States Environmental Protection Agency. (Mar. 25, 2013) http://www.epa.gov/iaq/voc.html
  • “Phthalates.” National Library of Medicine. (Mar. 25, 2013) http://toxtown.nlm.nih.gov/text_version/chemicals.php?id=24
  • “6 Steps to Avoid BPA and Phthalates in Food.” Silent Spring. (Mar. 25, 2013) http://silentspring.org/pdf/our_research/six_steps.pdf

  • “Formaldehyde: An Introduction to Indoor Air Quality.” United States Environmental Protection Agency. (Mar. 25, 2013) http://www.epa.gov/iaq/formaldehyde.html

  • “8 Unexpected Places to Find Petroleum in Your Home.” Mother Nature Network. (Mar. 25, 2013) http://www.mnn.com/local-reports/illinois/local-blog/8-unexpected-places-to-find-petroleum-in-your-home


1. What are the four materials to avoid in an eco-friendly home?

The four materials to avoid in an eco-friendly home are PVC, formaldehyde, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and non-renewable materials.

2. Why should I avoid PVC?

PVC, or polyvinyl chloride, is a plastic that releases toxic chemicals throughout its entire life cycle. These chemicals can harm human health and the environment. Additionally, PVC is not biodegradable, meaning it will remain in landfills for centuries.

3. What makes formaldehyde a harmful material for eco-friendly homes?

Formaldehyde is a colorless gas that is commonly found in building materials such as plywood, particleboard, and insulation. It is also a known carcinogen and can cause respiratory issues. Eco-friendly homes should avoid materials containing formaldehyde or choose those with low levels of the chemical.

4. What are VOCs and why are they harmful?

VOCs, or volatile organic compounds, are chemicals that are emitted from certain materials such as paints, adhesives, and cleaning products. They can cause a range of health problems including headaches, respiratory issues, and even cancer. Eco-friendly homes should avoid materials containing high levels of VOCs.

5. Why are non-renewable materials not eco-friendly?

Non-renewable materials are those that cannot be replenished once they are used up. Examples include fossil fuels and certain types of metals. These materials contribute to pollution and greenhouse gas emissions during their extraction and production. Eco-friendly homes should prioritize materials that are renewable and sustainably sourced.

6. What are some alternative materials that are eco-friendly?

Some alternative materials that are eco-friendly include bamboo, cork, reclaimed wood, and recycled glass. These materials are renewable, biodegradable, and have low environmental impact. They can be used in various aspects of home construction and design, including flooring, insulation, and countertops.

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