Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Volatile Organic Compounds

One of Brendon’s BFFs arrived into town late Saturday night. Marty is a friend from Brendon’s early 20s and now that he lives in Quebec and Brendon in Vancouver, the two rarely have the chance to spend time together. We made the decision to bring him out here and help with the house project for a week. Marty has been working as a carpenter’s assistant over the last year and since he is between contracts he was happy to lend a hand and get his hands dirty. One of the benefits of maxing out a credit card (temporarily Dad, I promise) is that you get a lot of air mile points and can fly folks in for back-up.

Marty has been great so far. He’s helped us finish up the painting and gotten us started on the window and door casings as well as the hardwood flooring. The painting has been a pretty interesting experience on its own. The last time I seriously put a roller in my hand was when I was in university and I painted my room blue and gold. At that time I remember having to vacate the house for a day to let the fumes escape. What is amazing is that just 10 years ago, paints with volatile organic compounds (VOCs) were the only option and the environmental and human health impacts were considered par for the course. This time around, every store I visited offered a ‘no’ or ‘low’ VOC option at a price point that wasn’t prohibitive. Benjamin Moore went as far as documenting the ‘parts per million’ of chemical compounds that each of their seven lines released. In the end it was because of their level of knowledge and wider selection that I opted to go with them.

For those that are new to the term VOC there is a great article in Treehugger that explains it all really well. Here’s an excerpt:

Traditional household paints contain many chemicals, including volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are a large group of carbon-based chemicals that are volatile, meaning that they like to exist as a gas. The type and amount of VOCs in a household paint generally varies with the type and brand of paint, but traditional household paints generally contain many VOCs, including benzene, formaldehyde, and toluene. Some of these VOCs have been linked in scientific studies to bad health outcomes, including eye, nose and throat irritation, nausea, headaches, and even cancer.

Because VOCs are volatile, they can “off-gas” from the walls into the air as the paint is applied or as it dries. This, combined with the fact that the paint is usually applied to a large area, can cause people living or spending time in these freshly painted homes to have exposures to VOCs that are much greater than normal – as much as 1000 times greater.

The result of our painting extravaganza was that for the first time ever I painted a home without once smelling any fumes or getting a headache!

Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for my life living with two boys. There is something that happens when two adult men who first bonded in their early years get together. Suddenly the toilet seat goes up, the bathroom doors are left open, and there is a lot of off-gassing... Since I didn’t grow up surrounded by boys, this is throwing me for a loop. Yesterday, to escape, I went as far as to lock myself away in the bedroom and stream the latest episode of the Bachelor.  I’m hoping that this is the extent of my decline into fluffy girl reality TV.  I’ll know it’s over once I find myself watching (and crying) over the Biggest Loser.

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