Chemicals used in everyday renovation products – such as paint, surface finishes, glues and other building materials – come under the classification of “industrial chemicals”. “In Australia we have a regulator to regulate those chemicals,” Immig says. “But the fact is we have 34,000 un-assessed industrial chemicals that are in common use in everyday products in Australia.”
Keep it natural
Choose natural, raw and unprocessed products where possible. “A piece of wood without any paint on it is a much better idea than lots of sawdust that’s all glued together and made into some artificial timber,” Immig explains.
Terms like “natural” and “organic” can be abused. Read the manufacturing information to ensure you’re getting the real deal. And, while those wood or bamboo floors might be advertised as “natural”, take note of what they’re varnished, treated or glued with.
Select products with the least amount of chemicals. One chemical is usually a safer bet than twenty. Indoor plants can also minimize airborne chemical pollutants.
Favour water-based products over those based on chemical solvents. A solvent is a substance (usually a liquid) able to dissolve other substances. Chemical solvents include toluene in paint, varnishes and adhesives.
Anything second-hand may be better from an outgassing point of view, as well an environmental one. Many building and finishing materials, including paint, varnish, sealers, glues, rubber cement and PVC-vinyl, outgas VOCs – toxic chemicals that continue to emit from the material they’re in.