Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Formaldehyde Free! or so we thought!

I heard about formaldehyde for the first time in 2003, when we were looking at houses to buy, my best friend from Rhode Island kept telling me, you can't buy a house with new cabinets, the new cabinets are not real wood and are loaded with formaldehyde, all right then.
I am not a paranoid about everything being green, I mean, we recycle, we don't drive around a lot burning gas for no reason, besides the fact that we drive an 8 cylinder large SUV. We burn less gasoline than our neighbours who drives Prius and Volvos to work everyday. See, Gil and I both have worked from home for the past 12 years.
We will go an entire month and a half on one tank of gasoline, maybe even less if it's snowing a lot and we get snowed in for weeks in a roll.
So, just by hearing the word formaldehyde was enough to scare me and made me trust Lisa's advice to look for a house with REAL solid hard wood cabinets. Solid hard wood cabinets were more common until the 60's and 70's.
Apparently, something happened to the world's wood supply in the 80's, prices skyrocketed and everyone started buying those crappy cheap modular cabinets for their kitchens and bathrooms.
The new cabinets I am talking about are nothing but a bunch of compacted cheap quality "saw" dust mixed in with a lot of glue, which contains an enormous amount of FORMALDEHYDE, this POISON keeps releasing a gas in the air of your house, it has no color and no smell, but you and your children inhale it everyday or your lives, creepy huh!.
Our house had solid wood cabinets all around, kitchen and bathrooms. We recently renovated our kitchen but didn't buy new cabinets. We decided to just paint and change the hardware on the old ones, because they are good quality solid wood, with no crappy poisonous FORMALDEHYDE. Good right?
I thought we were free from this freaking poison.
To my total surprise, I just read an article this week that MANY products we use on a daily basis have the darn poisonous crappy FORMALDEHYDE, in everything from cleaning products to air fresheners.
So, I did a little research and decided to share with you guys, CARE2 is a cool website for this type of information and here are some known carcinogens I found out about and good to avoid having around the house, principally if you have children
( I found this information in an article by SHINE by Yahoo) :

1-Air Fresheners:

Sweet-smelling air often comes with naphthalene and formaldehyde, both known carcinogens, as well as a host of other toxic chemicals.
For a fresh scent, start by removing the odor's source rather than trying to mask it. If something still stinks, try zeolite, baking soda, or natural fragrances from essential oils. For more information, see Easy Greening: Air fresheners .

2-Art and Craft Materials:

Common art supplies may contain harmful ingredients. For a full list of specific products to avoid by brand, see the items prohibited for use in California schools by the California EPA: Arts hazardous list (PDF). To guard against exposure to carcinogenic and/or highly toxic ingredients:
  • Watch out for lead and other heavy metals in paints, glazes, and enamels. Use vegetable based dyes and paints instead.
  • Use water-based glues, paints, and markers and avoid hazardous solvents like rubber cement, paint thinners, and solvent-based markers.
3-Automotive supplies:

Given how unhealthy auto exhaust is, it's no surprise that the fluids we feed our cars aren't very safe either. Antifreeze and brake fluids that contain ethylene glycol are highly toxic, and windshield wiper fluid is extremely poisonous. As little as 2 tablespoons can be deadly to a child.
Similarly, used motor oil presents a serious health threat through skin contact, skin absorption, inhalation, or ingestion. The health problems are cumulative, so with each exposure to used motor oil the amount of risks to the body's system increase.
If you need to use automotive supplies, keep them locked away and dispose of remnants or containers at your local hazardous waste facility.

4-Dry cleaning:

Conventional dry cleaners use tons of chemicals, such as perchloroethylene (tetrachloroethylene), naphthalene, benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene, all of which are carcinogenic. These chemical fumes can stick around on your clothes for days.
If your garments require a trip to the cleaners, ask for the wet-cleaning option at the cleaners, and seek dry cleaners that use liquid C02 or citrus juice cleaners. For more information, see Healthy and Green Dry cleaning.

5-Flea, Tick and Lice control:

Avoid lindane-based pesticides. California considers lindane to be carcinogenic. In rare cases, lindane has caused seizures and death, even among people who used lindane according to the directions.
For a list of safer alternatives, see Natural Flea and Tick control.

6-Paints and Varnishes:

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, some volatile organic compounds (VOCs) used in paints are known human carcinogens. In addition, the VOCs in paint are released into the air and may continue to off-gas at low levels for years after application.
Always choose low- or no-VOC finishes. For more information, see Is your paint making you sick?

You know how awful mothballs smell? Consider that your body's way of telling you: Bad, bad, bad! When you smell mothballs, you are essentially inhaling insecticide. Mothballs are nearly 100 percent naphthalene, a carcinogen, or paradichlorobenzene, a toxin.
Many people use cedar to combat moths, but it is not effective against adult moths.

8-Cleaning products:

Not all cleaning products contain carcinogens, but here are the worst offenders.
Mold and mildew cleaners can be a nasty bunch, often containing formaldehyde. Try a natural approach to killing mold and mildew by using Vinegar and tea tree oil.
Carpet and upholstery cleaners are designed to strip stains and dirt from heavy textiles by using noxious substances. The worst of the ingredients is perchloroethylene, a central nervous system toxicant and respiratory irritant.
Instead, try using a steam cleaner with water or a natural-based cleaner. Next time you're shopping for furniture, aim for styles that use slipcovers that can be removed and washed or water-process dry-cleaned.
Furniture polishes achieve a shine with nitrobenzene, a reproductive toxin and central nervous system toxin that can be absorbed through the skin. Look for an all-natural polish, or make your own using 1/8 cup olive oil or other vegetable oil mixed with 1 tablespoon vinegar and
1 tablespoon vodka.



Jana @ Paper plains said...

How disturbing, I really didn't want to know what went into that crappy wanna be wood that is everywhere now. I bought what I thought was a nice piece of furniture from Crate and Barrel a few years ago and on its first move it fell in the elevator exposing it as cheap crappy chip board and I was so upset. I guess good riddance... I will never spend money on anything other than glasses or dishes there and now that is one less piece of formaldehyde crap I have to breath in. What a shame, its so hard to find good solid wood pieces without spending a fortune...

SN said...

Good Post! NPR also had an article about the Brazilian Blowout. The older method used formaldehyde to straighten hair while the new improved method doesn't. Apparently though when heat is applied to the new method the chemical reaction that occurs turn the product into formaldehyde. The scientist involved in the research said to be skeptical of anything claiming to straighten hair that claims to not have formaldehyde. So much for products claiming to be safe!!


Gil and Ray said...

Dear Jana,

I hear you, we have bought our share of furniture that literally came a part during our many moves, we have actually moved 12 times in the last 10 years.
Now, we will go without something until we can afford the expensive SOLID WOOD furniture.
It is a lot easier to find solid hard wood furniture in Brazil and most definitely cheaper than in the US. I am writting a post today about where to find hard solid wood furniture around Sao Paulo.


Gil and Ray said...

Dear Sara,

Yes, we saw that too. I don't have any hair, so no worries in that department for me :)
What can we do nowadays to be safer? Use some common sense and hope for the best.
We have finally gotten rid of all of our plastic tupperware and have replaced it with GLASS from Pyrex brand. No more plastic containers to heat up anything in the microwave.
There was a recent report here in the US that said, Cancer doctors could point out what brand of bottled water their patients used to the chemicals they would find on these folks blood stream!!! Now, that was a wake up call.
The biggest thing with drinking water in the US right now is avoiding plastic bottles and using the aluminum bottles to avoid the chemicals released in the water by plastic bottled waters. :(