- What is sustainable living?
- Why is having healthy, safe indoor air important?
- What can I do to improve my indoor air quality?
- What is off-gassing?
- What are VOCs?
- What are some substances that commonly have VOCs and off-gas harmful chemicals?
- Can personal care products have an effect on my health?
- What can I look for when I read a personal care product’s ingredient list?
- Are there personal care ingredients I can avoid?
- Why do you dedicate so much store space to baby products?
- How can a sofa or a bed be toxic?
- Why does your store offer green paint and renovation materials?
- Where can I learn more about health and environmental issues?
- Where should I begin?
Sustainable living refers to a lifestyle that honours, supports and cooperates with nature.
Carbon Environmental Boutique demonstrates that a beautiful, healthy living space can reduce negative impact on the environment without sacrificing aesthetics.
Studies show that indoor air can be 6 to 10 times more polluted than outdoor air, to our detriment. In addition to this, an average Canadian can spend 90% of his or her time indoors, greatly increasing exposure to indoor pollutants.
Here are three steps to ensure safer indoor air quality, in order of importance:
Step One: Control the source of the chemical emissions.
Do not introduce harmful substances, building supplies or furniture into the home. Purchase safer alternatives such as zero VOC paints, green home building supplies, and products made with natural fibres and ingredients without harsh chemicals. Ensure that fireplaces, furnaces and water heaters are well-maintained and ventilated. Avoid idling your car or gas-powered lawnmower near your home. Avoid cigarette smoking indoors.
Step Two: Ventilate
Open windows and doors whenever possible to allow dry, fresh air to circulate. Turn on indoor fans. In summer keep home humidity levels at about 50%, in winter adjust to around 30%.
Step Three: Clean the Air
Purchase an air purifier. HEPA filters remove particles from the air such as pollen, mold spores, dander and dust. Carbon filters remove gases and odors. Avoid ion emitting air cleaners or air cleaners that use an electrical field to trap particles – these devices can emit ground-level ozone, which is harmful.
Off-gassing, sometimes called out-gassing, is the emission of potentially harmful chemicals from construction materials or everyday products.
A VOC is a volatile organic compound. Although sporting the word organic, this term is a negative one. VOCs are carbon-based chemical compounds that vaporize and enter the atmosphere. In direct terms – VOCs are harsh chemicals that can off-gas into the air.
Cleaning supplies, paints, stains, varnishes, adhesives, sealants, paint strippers, insulation, pressed wood products, cabinetry, countertops, flooring, horizontal PVC blinds, electronics, pesticides, plastics and synthetic foam in upholstery/mattresses often contain harmful chemicals that can slowly off-gas for years.
On average, Canadians use 9 personal care products each day, including shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, bubble bath, cream, lotion, cleanser, soap, toothpaste, mouthwash, make-up, lip balm, hairspray, perfume, cologne, deodorant, anti-perspirant, shaving products, hair removal creams, etc. Each conventional product has a long ingredient list of synthetic chemicals. The long-term consequences of the “cocktail effect” of combining and layering these chemicals has never been studied and is cause for concern. Some ingredients have been proven harmful or are potentially harmful.
As a general rule of thumb, look for short ingredient lists with pronounceable words, rather than acronyms, numbers and tongue twisters. Latin words are better than chemical words. Looking for what a product does not contain can be helpful – product labels will often highlight one good ingredient, and avoid mentioning harmful ones. Many conscientious companies will include lists of the harmful chemicals their products do not contain, ie: Phthalate free
Avoid, whenever possible, these ingredients:
- Fragrance - this one simple word can house hundreds of chemical components that may be linked to a variety of health problems including reproductive problems, allergy and asthma attacks, organ damage and skin irritation.
- Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulphate, (SLS) a synthetic foaming agent, can cause skin rashes and irritation as well as eye tissue damage.
- Triclosan, an anti-bacterial agent, has no advantage over regular soap. Other than its appearance in mother’s milk, there are concerns that it is contributing to decreasing effectiveness of antibiotics and the rise of superbugs.
- Parabens, used as a preservative to extend shelf life of creams, lip balms, shampoos, conditioners, etc. have been found in breast tumour tissue.
- Disodium EDTA, tetrasodium EDTA, cocamidopropyl betaine, and propylene glycol are penetration enhancers that can drive toxins deeper into the skin.
- Cocamide MEA, DEA TEA and SLS are commonly contaminated with 1,4 dioxane, a hormone disruptor associated to breast cancer and a probable human carcinogen.
- Petrochemicals, often listed as ceterareth and peg compounds.
- Phthalates are an insidious group of industrial chemicals that are usually not listed on ingredient labels. Found in a multitude of everyday items, phthalates are usually present in personal care items under the word “fragrance”.
- Hair dyes can be quite harsh containing coal tar and other carcinogens, but watch for other synthetic dyes in shampoos and other products.
Babies are our most sensitive citizens. Born with thinner skin and not-yet developed organs, they require extra special protection. Carbon Environmental has devoted a special section of the store to keep babies clean, warm, dry and fed in the safest way. Our section includes organic bed and bath linens, gentle lotions and cleansers, organic clothing and diapers, safe toys, air purification for the nursery, 100% organic mattresses and non-toxic feeding aids.
Conventional mattresses and furniture can contain a toxic mix of VOCs, heavy metals and carcinogens. Sofas and beds can be major polluters of indoor air.
Conventional, non-organic mattresses and upholstery are made with synthetic foam. Synthetic foams are made from a combination of petrochemicals. This foam off-gasses harmful VOCs. Foam particles float around your home in household dust.
In addition to their chemical detriments, synthetic foams are highly flammable. To make conventional foam fire safe, it is treated with PBDE’s (polybrominated diphenyl ethers), a highly toxic flame retardant chemical. The combination of synthetic foams and flame retardant chemicals make conventional mattresses and furniture an unsafe choice. Studies show that PBDE’s are present in bloodstreams of Canadians at higher levels than in most industrialized countries. PBDE’s are persistent, bioaccumulative chemicals which have serious health and environmental implications.
Conversely, a 100% organic mattress has no synthetic chemicals or components used in any stage of its manufacture. 100% organic mattresses are made with certified organic cotton, wool and natural rubber foam. These natural materials are naturally flame retardant, temperature-regulating, dust mite repellent, anti-bacterial and anti-microbial, as well as unbelievably comfortable.
Organic, non-toxic furniture will use natural rubber foam untreated by flame retardant chemicals, as well as textiles that are untreated. In addition, eco furniture will use wood from FSC certified forests, recycled hardware and sustainable fabrics such as bamboo, wool, hemp and cotton.
Conventional paint and renovation materials off-gas VOC’s (volatile organic compounds) that are harmful to humans and pets. Carbon Environmental is dedicated to removing these toxic compounds from people’s homes.
Carbon Environmental Boutique hosts in-store seminars and discussion groups. Please check-out our Services and Seminars page for a schedule of these events.
Also valuable is the information found through our Information and Resources links.
Start with a book.
For food: The Omnivore’s Dilemma or In Defense of Food, both by Michael Pollan
For toxins in everyday products: “Slow Death By Rubber Duck” by Canadians by Rick Smith, Bruce Lourie and Sarah Dopp
For Canadian eco-tips read: “Ecoholic” by Adria Vasil
For love of nature and a return of appreciation of life: “A Natural History of the Senses” by Diane Ackerman
For personal care products: “Not Just a Pretty Face” by Stacy Malkan