Finding out what’s really in those cans

When I first thought about having a detailed look at my DIY home-improvement stash I didn’t think it would be too bad. After all, these are things I picked up at the local home improvement store for typical home improvement type projects. You know, “normal” products, not industrial strength. And then I started poking around a little more, reading labels, looking at the fine print.

Maybe I shouldn’t have looked at all the labels.

Spray can label

Here’s what I found, so far…

Direct quotes: “May cause respiratory irritation”, “May cause damage to organs”, “May cause birth defects”, “May cause cancer”.

Wait, what?! What is this stuff on my normal, occasionally-used workbench?

  1. Methylene Chloride, a volatile compound – and one of the Red List chemicals – in my can of spray adhesive. Overexposure through inhalation or through the skin can cause some nasty health issues, including carbon monoxide poisoning and possibly cancer.
  2. Polymeric MDI, an aromatic diisocyanate – one of the EPA’s Chemicals of Concern – in my can of spray foam. Overexposure through inhalation may cause occupational asthma and other respiratory issues.

From the International Living Future Institute:

The Red List contains the worst-in-class materials prevalent in the building industry. The commonly-used chemicals on the Red List are:

  • Polluting the environment
  • Bio-accumulating up the food chain until they reach toxic concentrations
  • Harming construction and factory workers

What do I do next?

Declare DatabaseI decided on an incremental strategy to rid my workbench of toxic materials. First I’m going to get rid of any obvious toxic products. Next, I’ll do some homework on the products that I think may pose a hazard. Then I’ll research alternative products to buy in the future, one’s that are safe for use at home.

Some things you can do

First, download the Red List Guide (excel spreadsheet) from the International Living Future Institute’s website. This tool will help you identify any bad ingredients in the products you use. You may have to search a little to find out the CAS (Chemical Abstracts Service) numbers of the chemicals in question, as this is the way the spreadsheet is set up.

Next, read the labels. “Poison” is a red flag that you should dig a little deeper.

Lastly, use the Declare database for any future product purchases. The products on this list are third-party certified to various levels of compliance, including Red-List free.

It’s a bit of work for sure, but with my own health at stake (not to mention the health of my family) I think it’s a worthwhile investment.

Building a new home?

The same thinking can be extended to the design and specification of a new home. Bloom Architecture has developed processes to consider every product that goes into your new home. Of course, that’s only a part of what we mean by “optimizing your personal well-being”.

Find out more, send us a message!

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