The Low Down on Low-VOC Products

Not too long ago, I found myself surrounded by fabric samples and paint swatches, preparing a nursery in expectation of the latest addition to my family. Normally, I'm the kind of guy who takes notice of wall colors and other details of home decoration. I admit to tuning out on this project, however, as I knew my role would be limited to manual labor—that is, until my wife shook me from my stupor with this comment:

"Remember, we'll need to check with the paint store to make sure they have low-VOC paint."

"Low-EO-what paint?" was my response, if my memory serves; despite my general commitment to green practices and products, I really didn't know what she was talking about. Since we were discussing a baby's room, my education was swift and brutal; if you're equally confused about what Low-VOC means and how it affects you, I'll make things a bit easier on you.

Low-VOC products help improve your indoor air quality

VOCs, or volatile organic compounds, have been linked to increased incidence of asthma, respiratory problems, eye irritation, and other health problems. In addition to being present in paints, glues, and construction materials, they're a part of the air we breathe, so there's only so much we can do to avoid them.

Still, you certainly can do something about indoor air quality, as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) notes. Indeed, they list "source control" as the number one strategy to eliminate indoor air pollution, and that simply involves reducing the potential number of pollutants. The only problem is that many are introduced during or shortly after construction and sometimes are overlooked. For example:

Paint

This is one of the best-known offenders, largely because the pungent smell of freshly painted walls tends to get noticed. But while the initial aroma tapers off, walls may continue to emit VOCs for some time. That's just part of the reason McMillin Homes includes low-VOC (or no-VOC) paint as a standard feature in all its homes. Most paint manufacturers have low-VOC offerings, so if you're repainting, ask about them.

Cabinets

I'll admit: this one caught me by surprise. Unfortunately, it's true that the glues and stains used in cabinet manufacturing can contribute to indoor air pollution (Don't fear, McMillin homeowners; all of the cabinets we install use low-VOC glues and stains.). If you're considering remodeling your kitchen, look at the information provided by the manufacturers and investigate low-VOC options.

Flooring

Environmental crusaders have generally focused on the impact of how flooring is manufactured, but what's underneath your feet could pose an ongoing problem for your air quality. McMillin offers several green, low-VOC flooring options (carpet and hardwood) from Shaw that give our homeowners peace of mind—not to mention years of reliable use. It pays to consider the ongoing effects of your flooring choices, not just the manufacturing effects.

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