Wellness Within Your Walls Promotes Indoor Air Quality
Wellness Within Your Walls Promotes Indoor Air QualityI attended a wonderful webinar sponsored by the Sustainable Furnishings Council in which interior designer Jillian Pritchard Cooke spoke on the importance of better indoor air quality. She also discussed how the furnishings in a home play a part.
The webinar was entitled Reducing Harmful Toxins in the Home: Combating the tight box syndrome. Tight box syndrome, also called sick building syndrome, refers to a health condition created by modern houses and offices where indoor contaminants remain circulating in in the air, trapped by the tight seals of today’s buildings like air in in a spaceship.
Pritchard Cooke is a principal at design firm DES-SYN and the founder of Wellness Within Your Walls, an organization dedicated to not only reducing toxins during the interior design process but also in promoting more sustainable and responsible materials. She said she became focused on designing more eco-friendly living spaces after she was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, which she suspects was caused by years of working with off-gassing furnishings and flooring, paints and finishes.
According to Pritchard Cooke, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) consistently ranks indoor air pollution in the top five environmental risks to public health. She also points out that science is far from understanding how the combination of multiple indoor pollutants, ranging from flame retardants in our furniture to VOCs in our paint, combine together to impact our health.
Part of the problem, according to Pritchard Cooke, is that during many interior design projects an entire room or series of rooms get huge doses of NEW: new paint, new carpeting, new sofas, new windows … new, new, new. The problem is these new additions often off gas VOCs, and the home is suddenly swamped with odors and chemicals at one time. Furthermore, tightly sealed windows and doors keep the chemicals inside, ready for our lungs.
Some solutions, she said, are common sense, even though they are often overlooked. For example, open windows, when realistic, factoring in of course weather and outdoor allergens. Also, If possible, allow new furnishings to breathe in a garage or open space out of their protective plastic wrappers instead of bringing sealed products into the home.
Pritchard Cooke points out fabrics can also contain a variety of additives, from waterproofing agents to flame retardants, which affect air quality. So many additives can be found in fabrics she points out that some people with chemical sensitivities can have adverse effects from even going into clothing stores full of brand new clothing items.
Of course finding healthier options that aren't releasing high levels of harmful chemicals is ideal. Pritchard Cooke points out that integrating antiques and legacy items that have long since cured can not only help to protect indoor air quality but also reduce waste and use of energy and natural resources.