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What You Need To Know About Off-Gassing

What you need to know about off-gassing in interior design

In the intricate world of interior design, where every detail matters, there's a crucial yet often overlooked consideration that deserves our utmost attention: off-gassing. While the term may sound unfamiliar to some, its implications for our health and well-being are significant.

What is Off-Gassing?

Off-gassing refers to the release of potentially harmful chemicals from various materials commonly found in our homes, including flooring, furniture, paint, and fabrics. These chemicals, known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), can pose serious health risks, particularly for those with sensitive immune systems.

As interior designers, it's our responsibility to educate ourselves and our clients about the dangers of off-gassing and to prioritize the use of materials that minimize its impact. This means choosing high-quality, low-VOC products whenever possible and steering clear of options known to emit harmful toxins into the air.

In a recent Architectural Digest article, designer Kelly Thompson shared her insights on the topic, emphasizing the importance of considering off-gassing when selecting materials for our homes. She recounted a conversation with a client in which she highlighted the health impacts of chemical inhalants, cautioning against exposing families to a "vapor stew" of toxins, particularly in spaces where deep breathing is encouraged, such as yoga rooms.

How long does Off-Gassing Last?

The duration of off-gassing varies depending on the specific materials involved and environmental factors such as temperature and ventilation. In some cases, the process may last for days or weeks after installation, gradually dissipating over time as the chemicals are released into the air. However, certain materials, particularly those with higher levels of VOCs, may continue to off-gas for months or even years, posing an ongoing risk to indoor air quality and human health. Research the off-gassing tendencies of materials before incorporating them into your home and prioritize options that minimize this phenomenon to create a healthier living environment for you and your family.

What are the Effects of Off-Gassing?

Prolonged exposure to off-gassing can have serious implications for your health, ranging from short-term discomfort to long-term health risks. According to experts, off-gassing can lead to headaches, respiratory illnesses, hormone disruption, and even increase the risk of certain cancers. The chemicals released during off-gassing, such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), can permeate indoor air and be inhaled or absorbed through the skin, posing significant health hazards, especially for babies and school aged children. Identifying the worst offenders among common household materials and understanding their potential impacts is crucial for minimizing exposure and safeguarding your well-being.

Designing with non-off-gassing materials

To create an off-gassing-free environment, we must be diligent in our material selection process. This starts with seeking out products that are certified as low-VOC, including paints, adhesives, and finishes. By opting for these options, we can minimize the release of harmful chemicals into our living spaces, safeguarding our health and that of our loved ones.

When it comes to furniture, consider incorporating antique or secondhand pieces into your design scheme. Not only do these items add character and charm to a space, but they also tend to emit fewer toxins compared to their newly manufactured counterparts. By embracing vintage furnishings, we reduce our exposure to harmful chemicals while infusing our homes with a sense of history and authenticity.

It's also essential to exercise caution when selecting fabrics for upholstery and soft furnishings. Performance fabrics, while prized for their durability and stain resistance, can be among the worst offenders when it comes to off-gassing. These materials often contain chemical treatments that release toxins into the air over time, posing a risk to our health. Instead, it's better to choose natural fibers, even though they do stain or won't hold up as long compared to to their performance counterparts.

As outdoor retailer REI recently acknowledged, even water-resistant fabrics may contain harmful chemicals known as forever chemicals. To mitigate this risk, it's crucial to research and select fabrics that prioritize health and safety. Look for certifications such as Oeko-Tex Standard 100, which indicates that a fabric has been tested for harmful substances and deemed safe for use.

In summary, creating an off-gassing-free environment requires careful consideration and informed decision-making. By prioritizing the use of low-VOC materials, embracing vintage furnishings, and selecting fabrics with health and safety in mind, we can design spaces that promote wellness and vitality. Let's make conscious choices that prioritize both our aesthetic preferences and our well-being.

Looking to create a new space with as little off-gassing as possible? Book a consult today and lets design a beautiful and healthy space for you and your loved ones.



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