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Natural Awakenings Metro Phoenix & Northern Arizona

Getting a Handle on Home Toxicity: Valerie Tourangeau shows us how green homes don't always create a healthy environment

Apr 30, 2014 10:11AM ● By Valerie Tourangeau

Homes can be measured in many ways—square footage, number of bedrooms and energy efficiency, yet one important factor that is rarely considered is health. Most products are tested for toxicity, not the ability to create a healthy environment. Though the green movement does address indoor air quality, there are still steps to be taken to make green truly healthy for everyone. As green homes begin to entice buyers, we need to consider how healthy many green products are. Here are a few examples of when green may not be healthy.

Artificial turf is gaining popularity in Arizona because it is considered green. It saves water and is made from recyclable materials. Unfortunately there are health concerns such as:

  • The hazardous chemicals used during manufacturing contribute to environmental health concerns.
  • The padding, crumb rubber, can contain volatile organic compounds (VOC) and may release chemicals like arsenic, cadmium, lead and nickel as it deteriorates.
  • Children playing on the field may be exposed to lead dust from worn turf fibers that get onto their hands or toys.
  • Natural grass filters air and water pollutants; artificial turf does not.
  • Real grass provides a cooling surface, whereas artificial turf heats up and may be a breeding ground for bacteria.

The concentrations that leach out are not believed to be significant risks to the environment, but data is lacking and there are gaps in the science. There are "healthier" artificial turf products available, but there is little knowledge about the new chemicals used in these products.

Other examples include:

  • CFL lights, which contain mercury, can be highly toxic if not cleaned up properly when broken. Burned-out lights must be disposed of at a toxic waste facility not available in many small cities. 
  • Triclosan found its way into many green products such as flooring and paint to name a few, in products named Microban. Triclosan is being phased out due to health and environmental concerns. Microban may be unnecessary, as it is erroneously thought to protect the user, when it is actually intended to protect the product.  
  • Nanotechnology is the new kid on the green building block. Environmental and health concerns have plagued the nanotechnology industry though; with no labeling laws governing its use, it is difficult to tell where it is being used. Some LED lights are using this technology already.

Is there anything we can do to safeguard our families? As a nation, we are getting sicker—asthma, cancer rates and other disease are on the rise. The one place we should feel safe is in our own homes. Research products, demand full disclosure and ask questions about the entire process, from manufacturing to installation. Only the consumer can reverse this toxic trend. If you want a healthy home, you must demand healthy products.

Valerie Tourangeau is a certified EcoBroker Realtor with Keller Williams East Valley with a background in permaculture and building biology. She believes green comes in all shades and everyone deserves a green home. Contact her at 480-229-8858 or at [email protected].

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