Although there’s no question that it’s better for everyone if our homes and the environment are completely free of toxic chemicals, it’s just not always possible. To resolve the issues across the globe, it’s going to take a big team – industry, government and our concerned friends everywhere on the planet. But we don’t need anyone’s help to take care of our child’s nursery or, for that matter, our own home.
How do we do that? In addition to using non-toxic products whenever possible – starting with an organic crib mattress and going straight through to cleaning products – you might also consider ridding the walls, floors, carpeting and so on of any residual off-gasing potential.
A step by step process for doing this is in a book called Home Safe Home, written by Debra Lynn Dadd, green maven extraordinaire. I recently had the good fortune to get Ms. Dadd’s permission to re-print the process in its entirety. The section is called Curing a Sick House. See below. And, by the way, I’d love to hear anyone’s feedback after they’ve tried this out.
Curing a Sick House
There are many building materials that have some toxicity when being applied, but cure to a nontoxic finish. This is because the toxic part is the solvent used to keep the material pliable (as in the case of caulks, paints, and other finishes) or that residual chemicals used in manufacturing have not completely dissipated (such as adhesives used to hold together wood floor tiles). Once these chemicals outgas, however, the resulting product is nontoxic.
If you don’t have to install or apply these products yourself, once cured they can be safe for you and your family to live with (though in the larger scheme of things, we should also be considering toxic exposures to the people we hire and the pollutants released into the environment.)
To speed up the curing process, you can do what is commonly called a “bake-out.” In my experience, it has been a cure-all for many toxic homes, as it bakes off the volatile gasses that are present in materials and finishes and cures the materials into an inert form.
The procedure I recommend is this:
1. Close all doors and windows.
2. Remove people, pets, and plants.
3. Turn up the central heat as far as it will go (or use space heaters).
4. At the end of each twenty-four-hour period, open the doors and windows and air your home out completely. Use a fan if necessary.
5. Sniff around to check for odors. Determine if they are gone, or if you need another day of baking.
Baking can take from one to five days. I’ve never needed to do it longer than five days.”
The Naturepedic Blog Maven