It may be surprising that it hasn’t happened earlier, but formaldehyde has now been officially included in the Health and Human Services Report on Carcinogens, paving the way for further regulation of the chemical.

As Treehugger reports, scientists and politicians have known about the risks for years, but the formaldehyde industry has fought long and hard to prevent its inclusion on the HHS Report on Carcinogens.  The Report is a federally-mandated document that “identifies agents, substances, mixtures, or exposures… known to be a human carcinogen.”

The commission responsible for the report, the National Toxicology Program has noted of the particular dangers posed to certain segments of the workforce – namely, industrial workers and embalmers – which include myeloid leukemia and rare cancers in the sinuses and parts of the throat.

We at Green Depot especially care about this issue, because it turns out that urea-formaldehyde is often added to the adhesives used to produce conventional particle board, plywood, and other lumber products.  Formaldehyde is a volatile organic compound (VOC) meaning that if products made with the chemical are found in the home, they can offgas into the household environment for years to come, meaning long-term exposure.  This is of tremendous cause for concern as homeowners push for higher energy efficiency through weatherization programs, which limits the draftiness of homes – confining offgassing formaldehyde in living areas.

It should be noted that wood intrinsically contains a small amount of naturally occurring phenol-formaldehyde. The levels of formaldehyde naturally found in wood is not considered to be hazaradous, and is not a cause for concern in the same way that the formaldehyde that off-gasses from many plywoods, insulations, particle boards can be.

Green Depot carries a number of no added urea-formaldehyde plywood, flooring, green building materials and other green products.  You can visit our Green Wood Supplies department by clicking here.

For green building materials, like eco insulation, as well as many other green products for a sustainable lifestyle, visit http://www.greendepot.com.

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We wrote earlier about the benefits of bamboo flooring – one of the most sustainable flooring options available on the market today.  But bamboo might not be the best option for everyone – which is why cork is another handy, sustainable option.

Cork is an industry that is more or less inherently sustainable.  It’s a trade that goes back countless generations.  Cork is harvested by stripping the trees of their bark, which is then processed into pressed cork board – but this process does not harm the trees themselves.  It’s a fact that an actively-harvested cork tree live between 150 and 250 years.

Producers harvest cork by stripping the bark from the trees in long, side slabs.  They then process the bark, first by punching out wine corks, and then by grinding the remaining scraps.  These pieces are pressed back together to make flooring – like ours! – and other products.

The purchase of cork contributes to an industry that prevents land from reverting to desert by keeping a forest cover on otherwise arid land.  It’s estimated that this protects up to 5.5 million acres from desertification.  Cork forests provide invaluable habitat for many indigenous species like the endangered Iberian Lynx.  For these and many other reasons, the world’s largest producer of cork, Portugal, has made it illegal to cut down cork trees.  Harvesting schedules are set by law to ensure that each tree has nine years to regenerate its bark after being harvested.

GREEN DEPOT SOLUTIONS

Our flooring sale continues this week! Through May 31st, we’re offering 10% off all cork and bamboo flooring.  We offer two brands of cork flooring – DMI cork floors, and Natural Cork Floors.  Both are made from rapidly-renewable cork.  Our DMI Cork Floors are available in both tongue-and-groove and glue-down tiles.  Cork is a warm, quiet, comfortable and resilient building material which is naturally resistant to pests and mold.  DMI cork floors come with a factory-applied, acrylic-urethane matte protective finish.  Natural Cork floors are manufactured with Acrodur from BASF to eliminate harmful ingredients such as phenol, formaldehyde, and isocyanates from the binding process, significantly reducing offgassing without compromising the performance of the floor.

For green building materials, like eco insulation, as well as many other green products for a sustainable lifestyle, visit http://www.greendepot.com.

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image via flickr user wootang01

Lots of folks are seriously concerned about the health of their indoor environment – and for good reason.  As we’ve written about before, using conventional interior paints which are high in volatile organic compounds (VOCs), can “offgas” fumes which are toxic, and potentially hazardous to the health of people.

When a green product is referred to as low-VOC, it is usually referencing a synthetic, liquid solvent that gives off – or “offgasses” – toxic fumes.  This is the source of the poignant smell in paints, turpentine, varnish, stains, and other finishing products, which can often cause headaches and other health issues, if they are inhaled in enough volume over time.  The troubling thing about conventional products with a high-VOC content is that those substances can continue to offgas VOCs for years after it has dried, and after the poignant smell has abated: just because you can’t smell the VOCs anymore doesn’t mean you’re not still inhaling toxic fumes.

For this reason, most people use low-VOC paints and stains in their interiors.  But there are important reasons to use low-VOC paints and stains on the exterior of your home, or deck: many of the toxic elements in conventional finishes include heavy metals and formaldehyde – substances which can leach out into the environment over time (consider how the paints on the exteriors of homes eventually chip off).  When these gasses and heavy metals leach out of finishes, or chip off into the soil, they pollute.  While the amount being leached into the environment may be trace, any contribution of toxic chemicals into the environment is a negative contribution.

And, if you have a garden around your house, or a well nearby, is it ultimately worth risking these toxins and heavy metals leaching into food and water supplies, when healthy, safe alternatives exist?

GREEN DEPOT SOLUTIONS

This week Green Depot is having a 15%-off sale on a full range of paints, stains, sealants, and other finishing products.  AFM Safecoat paints have both interior exterior low-VOC products available.  Ecoprocote also has a number of low-VOC stains, sealers, and clear top coats.  And make sure to check out Ivy Coatings primers and paints, which are available for application to both interior and exterior surfaces.  To see all of the products we’re offering this week at a 15% discount, you can visit our promotion’s page by clicking here.

For green building materials, like eco insulation, as well as many other green products for a sustainable lifestyle, visit http://www.greendepot.com.

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Spring is almost here!

Here in New York City we’re finally beginning to experience temperatures into the upper 50s (F).  Warmer weather is just around the corner!  On my own desk, a pot of narcissus flowers is beginning to bloom, and in the planters around my neighborhood of Crown Heights, daffodils are beginning to poke through the soil.

Of course one of the big springtime events is always Spring Cleaning, a true manifestation of the old adage “out with the old, in with the new.”  So: what can you look for at Green Depot to help you usher in the new spring, and what’s new with Green Depot?

GREEN DEPOT SOLUTIONS

Spring Cleaning Vacuum Sale: Our Spring Cleaning Sale ends March 14, and during this time you can save up to 25% off Electrolux Vacuums.  Green Depot carries a full line of vacuum cleaners for almost any purpose.  Electrolux is one brand that we’re featuring, and the Electrolux Versatility Upright Vacuum is our most fully-featured vacuum.  It has everything you could want in a vacuum cleaner.  The quick-release wand has a buckle which releases it from the main vacuum for cleaning hard-to-reach spaces high and low, like the ceiling and behind couches.  It has a reach of 14 feet.  The vacuum is also powerful: it is bagless and uses cyclonic technology with a 12-amp motor to keep it running at full power.  It is constructed from high impact plastics, ensuring a durable, long life.  In addition, it has a HEPA filtration system to eliminate 99.7% of allergens, allowing for cleaning air in your home after vacuuming.

What’s New?  Green Depot and Ecohaus have Joined Forces: We’ve been working hard to let all of our customers know of a big change around Green Depot: the acquisition of Ecohaus, our West Coast counterparts.  It’s a sensible match.  Both organizations have received numerous laurels for their contributions to a sustainable society and a green economy.  As Sarah Beatty, the CEO of Green Depot notes, “Our core values and passion align completely.” said Sarah Beatty, founder of Green Depot, “By joining forces with Ecohaus, Green Depot is strongly positioned for continued growth throughout America.”  Ecohaus and Green Depot also both have a strong commitment to avoid greenwashing — that is, to offer only green products that pass strict proprietary filters.  Green Depot’s is known as the C.L.E.A.R. filter, and you can read more about it by clicking here.  Ecohaus, likewise, judges all that it carries according to design, durability, price, health and environment.  Read more about the acquisition by reading our press release, here.

Also see our Latest Promotions:

1. Austin Air Purifier Sale: we’re discounting all of our Austin Air Healthmate Air Purifiers up to 20% off!  The Austin HealthMate system combines sound filtering technology to provide protection from a wide range of airborne particles, chemicals, gases, and odors.  This is especially important for those of us with allergies in the spring, as pollen becomes a nuisance, and having clean indoor air is essential for our health.  The Austin Air Healthmates come in several different sizes, and the 1500 square foot model in particular is capable of filtering over 250 cubic feet of air through 15 pounds of activated carbon and HEPA filter every minute, which may even be capable of changing the way that you breathe and sleep.  For smaller sizes, check out the Healthmate Jr. (for 700 sq. foot spaces) or the Healthmate Baby’s Breath (also for 700 square foot spaces).  For greater filtration of reactive gases, check out the Healthmate Plus (1500 square feet).

2. Let us help you create an eco-friendly kitchen: Green Depot carries a full line of ecofriendly green products that can help you remodel your kitchen however you like.  Whether you are searching for a traditional, contemporary, or a transitional design, Green Depot has solutions for every budget.  Our friendly in-house designers can help you achieve the aesthetic you are searching for, using FSC-certified or other renewable woods and formaldehyde-free and low-VOC finishes.  Green Depot carries Urban Prairie and Breathe Easy Cabinetry, Icestone Countertops, Cambria and CaesarStone Quartz Surfaces, Trend Q countertops, and bamboo butcher block counters and plywood options.

For many green products, including new green building materials carried by both Ecohaus and Greendepot, visit our websites: http://www.greendepot.com, and http://www.ecohaus.com.

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indoor air fresheners include plugins and aerosol sprays

Indoor air fresheners were first introduced in 1948, and their popularity has grown substantially since then.  They are incredibly commonplace — according to a marketing report from the Global Cosmetic Industry, nearly 80% of global consumers reported buying an air freshening product in 2006, at a total value of more than $6 billion, and $979.1 million dollars in the U.S. alone.  Following these trends, it’s expected that global air freshener sales for 2010 will reach $7.3 billion.

That’s an enormous market, affecting more than three-quarters of all Americans.  Unfortunately, that also means that more than three-quarters of Ameriacns are voluntarily exposing themselves to extremely dangerous chemicals that can cause headaches, convulsions, and disruptions of the human reproductive system.  The dangers of these home air fresheners have been recording by numerous organizations – including the Sierra Club, the National Center for Healthy Housing, the Alliance for Healthy Homes, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the European Consumer’s Organization.

Indeed, a study by the University of Bristol followed the health and development of 14,000 children since before birth.  The study had some astonishing results: 32 percent more children suffered intestinal problems in homes where air fresheners were used, and a notably higher rate of earaches was recorded.  Air fresheners seem to affect parents, as well: people who use air fresheners daily – whether from a spray can or a wall socket – suffer from 10% more headaches, and women with air fresheners in their homes had a 26% greater occurrence of depression.

It’s important to note, though, that a higher occurrence of these symptoms in homes with air fresheners does not necessarily mean those symptoms were caused by the air fresheners.  But it certainly highlights important questions about the safety of air fresheners, and studies of air fresheners reveal numerous deadly chemicals that absolutely have an adverse effect on human health.

The California Air Resources Board published a study in 2006 entitled “Indoor Air Chemistry: Cleaning Agents, Ozone and Toxic Air Contaminants” that wound up underscoring the risks that home air fresheners pose (a full copy of the report can be found here).  The report found that some air fresheners produce toxic pollutants – including formaldehyde, a known carcinogen, and other fine pollution particles.

In addition to carcinogenic formaldehyde and pollution particles, air fresheners produce a range of other dangerous chemicals, including acetaldehyde, organic acids, hydrogen peroxide, and hydroxl radicals – all of which people should not be inhaling in their home environment. The European Consumers Organization also discovered, in a 2005 study, that air fresheners can produce allergens and other toxic air pollutants including benzene, terpenes, styrene, phthalates, and toluene in addition to formaldehyde.

It’s not tremendously surprising that these products produce such toxic chemicals when you consider what they contain – to begin with, over twenty different volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which have been linked to neurological disorders and kidney failure.  A study at the University of Bristol even found that VOCs in can lead to a higher rate of earaches and diarrhea in infants, and depression and headaches in their mothers – suggesting that air fresheners could, indeed, be causing the symptoms noted above.   Other basic ingredients in air fresheners include aerosol propellants, petroleum distallates, p-dichlorobenzene, phosphates, chlorine bleach, and ammonia.  Many of these chemicals can seriously aggravate asthma and affect reproductive development.

GREEN DEPOT SOLUTIONS

the chikuno charcoal cube

But don’t fret!  Despite all the dangers of air fresheners, there are green product alternatives available!

The Chikuno Charcoal Cube Air Freshener is the safest and most environmentally-friendly option presently on the market and represents design of an extremely high caliber.  It is a chemical-free air freshener made from ultra-fine bamboo charcoal powder and clay minerals.  According to the product’s webpage, Bamboo charcoal is activated at extremely high temperatures which produces an incredibly fine, or porous, interior – “like a micro sponge or honeycomb,” with an interior surface area of 7,500 square feet per gram of bamboo charcoal.  This powder is significantly more fine than wood charcoal (and is more sustainably-produced, as bamboo can mature to harvestable size in as little as six years), and because of its large surface area, has the ability to absorb order for up to a year.

The Chikuno Cube can be refreshed every month by exposing to sunlight for six hours, and it won the Japanese Good Design Award in 2008.

For this and other green products for a healthier and more environmentally-friendly home, you can always make sure to visit http://greendepot.com.

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Sometimes it seems like every day that we learn about some new thing to be afraid of in our homes—items we thought couldn’t be more innocent, like baby bottles, turn out to be made of toxic materials. Fortunately, though, it’s not that hard to find healthy and eco-friendly alternatives to those that aren’t so friendly. Eco-labels can be a huge help, if you know what you’re looking for. We wrote about a few of the most highly regarded ones to keep an eye out for here, and here’s one more: CRI Green Label Plus. CRI is the Carpet and Rug Institute, and Green Label Plus is their voluntary certification for sustainable carpeting.

Many brands of commercial and residential carpeting produced in recent decades have been proven to off-gas VOCs–not only when new, but sometimes as many as 12 years(!) after installation. Among the chemicals found to be emitted from some of the most popular brands are styrene, 4-PC and formaldehyde, all of which have been associated with respiratory and neurological damage at high concentrations. Many carpet manufacturers have also been called to task for the short life cycle of their products, and their inability to be recycled—and companies like Shaw have taken huge steps to make their carpeting work cradle-to-cradle, rather than just cradle-to-grave.

In order to address their products’ VOC issues, a number of manufacturers have also stepped up to the plate by starting to make safer, non-polluting carpeting available at competitive prices. Green Label Plus is a testing program that checks total VOC emissions and individual chemical concentrations for carpet brands that voluntarily register for evaluation. Only carpeting that emits either no VOC or levels low enough that they don’t threaten indoor air quality get to carry the Green Label Plus seal, above. So the next time you’re out looking for something soft to go under your naked tootsies, you can let the Green Seal Plus symbol help you choose something that’s healthy for both you and the environment.

Among the many other green products we carry, Green Depot offers a range of Green Label Plus-certified carpeting options, in materials ranging from New Zealand wool to jute and coir.

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