We do not see them, we do not feel them for the most part: “And yet, if we do not take precautions, many harmful compounds emitted by decorative materials and products can contribute to poor indoor air quality “, underlines Souad Bouallala, Air Quality Engineer at theAdeme.
In recent years, several regulatory measures have forced manufacturers to make efforts to remove or limit some of these substances in their products and, since September 2013, to affix them an “indoor air emissions” label. This labeling, which ranges from A + (very low emissions) to C (high emissions), takes into account total volatile organic compounds (TVOC) and around ten individual substances, including formaldehyde.
Good news then? Yes, because it helps guide consumers’ choice. But…
“The A + seems to me a minimum, specifies Dr. Fabien Squinazi, medical biologist, member of the High Council of Public Health. The ideal is to go towards products which carry more labels more demanding, at the same time on the number of substances taken into consideration and on the limit thresholds imposed. ”
Which paint is the least harmful?
- Paints “in aqueous phase” (say to water), emit much less VOC than those in “solvent phase” (say to oil). They contain a small proportion of ingredients (cosolvents, preservatives …), less harmful but not neutral.
- Mineral paints, silicate-based for the least polluting, do not contain organic pigments, solvents, plasticizers or preservatives.
- Matte paints, which contain more mineral elements, and white paints are often less emitting.
What is the healthiest floor covering?
Tiling remains the “best student” in terms of emissions. Essentially mineral in composition, it emits very little, if any, VOCs. Very well too :
- thesolid wood parquet, multilayer flooring can be an alternative because it contains little glue,
- or the laminate bearer of a complementary label.
Some wooden floors proudly announce an E1 classification, a standard which imposes limited formaldehyde emissions, which leaves Dr Squinazi wary: “The reference value retained by this standard, ie 124 μg / m3 of air, is less demanding than that of the A + label, ie 10 μg / m3. ” In other words, it is not really a guarantee of sanitary quality!
Favor real linoleum, composed largely or entirely of vegetable raw materials (linseed oil, wood flour, jute, natural resins). Not to be confused with synthetic coatings wrongly called “lino”, based on PVC containing plasticizers emitting phthalates, and which it is therefore preferable to avoid.
Note, however: some manufacturers now offer vinyl or PVC coverings without phthalates (Tarkett, Forbo, etc.).
Make the choice of a vegetal coating
Another interesting choice: woven plant fiber coverings (sisal, coconut, seagrass), making sure that the underlayer on which they are attached is of natural origin (latex, felt, jute …) and not synthetic
What is the best type of wall covering?
- The tiling: ideal in damp rooms, because it emits very little or no VOCs (provided you choose the right glue).
- The wallpaper : Avoid vinyl papers, covered with a thin layer of PVC likely to release phthalates. The so-called traditional papers, only based on cellulose fibers, are the least polluting, but they are not suitable for damp rooms. Because they are waterproof, non-woven wallpapers, composed of cellulose and polyester, can be an alternative, as long as you choose those that are PVC-free.
- Glass fiber fabrics, over which one can paint, are more solid. According to Cerema (Center for Studies and Expertise on Risks, the Environment, Mobility and Planning), although skin irritation is possible during installation, the size of the glass fibers is too large for that they are inhaled.
- Wall fabrics: prefer the taut installation to the glued installation.
What is the least toxic glue?
“Even if little is used, glues emit a lot of VOCs, especially formaldehyde”, points out Souad Bouallala. For parquet and tiles, there are adhesives which, in addition to the regulatory A +, carry a more demanding label, but according to our survey, not those intended for wallpapers. The best is to go to glues of plant origin (wheat starch, cellulose, natural latex …) and / or those which mention the absence of solvents, VOCs, formaldehyde and synthetic resin.
Old furniture has the advantage of emitting less VOCs than new ones. Nevertheless, a makeover requires some precautions. If you strip it: go for paints or varnishes of plant origin (lactic acid, oils …) without chlorinated solvents, acid, soda, potash, paraffin or preservatives, which can emit VOCs and other pollutants.
If you want to protect it: prefer wood oils of vegetable origin, or water-based varnishes which limit solvent emissions into the air. Choose those who wear toy standard EN 71-3.
What are the most environmentally friendly insulation materials?
Insulation materials may contain irritant, allergenic or carcinogenic toxic substances : VOCs in insulating foams, biocides in certain bio-based insulators (made from materials from the plant and animal world or from recycled products), particles and fibers from wool (mineral, plant or animal). However, as Ademe points out, there are no benchmarks making it possible to affirm that a product is healthy or not. It is therefore best to favor those classified A + and carrying an additional label.
Better to use a professional because not only does the choice of insulation depend on many factors (place to insulate, thermal and / or sound insulation, desired level of efficiency, etc.), but if the installation is poorly done, indoor pollution problems may appear or worsen. Without counting the possible presence of asbestos (floors, ceilings …) in buildings built before 1997.
DIY and decoration: which eco-labels can we trust?
- Main products concerned: paints, floor coverings, insulation, parquet floors, leveling.
- Pollutants taken into account: total volatile organic compounds (TVOC), formaldehyde, pesticides, titanium dioxide, certain heavy metals, phthalates, brominated and organochlorine flame retardants, etc.
- Specificities : deemed to be the strictest of all labels, but less demanding than the A + label for formaldehyde.
Emicode® EC1 or EC1Plus
- Main products concerned: laying products for floor coverings (adhesives, mortars, primers, etc.), parquet varnishes.
- Pollutants taken into account: TVOC, Total semi-volatile organic compounds (COSVT), formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, guarantees the absence of emissions of carcinogenic substances.
- Specificities : more demanding than the A + rating for TVOCs, but less for formaldehyde. The ECPlus version is more stringent than EC1.
- Main products concerned: carpets and rugs.
- Pollutants taken into account: TVOC, formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, toluene, tetrachlorethylene, ethylbenzene, styrene …
- Specificities : limit values for each substance taken separately, lower than those defined by the mention A +.
Indoor Air Comfort
- Main products concerned: flexible floor coverings, insulation products, paints, wallpapers.
- Pollutants taken into account: TVOC, COSVT, formaldehyde, acetaldehyde …
- Specificities: in “standard” version or, more demanding, in gold ”version: criteria equivalent or even superior to the A + labeling.
- Main products concerned: paints, floor coverings, insulation, varnish.
- Pollutants taken into account: TVOC, COSVT, formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, styrene
- Specificities : less stringent than the A + labeling for formaldehyde, more for other pollutants.
- Main products concerned: parquet floors and wood panels.
- Pollutants taken into account: TVOC, COSVT, formaldehydes … Prohibits certain dyes, heavy metals and pesticides considered dangerous by the WHO …
- Specificities : stricter than the A + label for TVOCs, less for formaldehyde.
Oeko-Tex® Standard 100
- Main products concerned: wall fabrics and canvases.
- Pollutants taken into account: TVOC, formaldehydes … Also prohibits pesticides, azo dyes, heavy metals …
- Specificities : more demanding limit values for TVOCs, less for formaldehyde.
- Main products concerned: wallpapers.
- Pollutants taken into account: TVOC, formaldehyde, heavy metals, etc. Prohibited certain plasticizers.
- Specificities : stricter than the A + label for TVOCs.
- Main products concerned: paints (in France).
- Pollutants taken into account: COVT, COSVT …
- Specificities : TVOC emissions, against 1,000 μg / m3 28 days later for the A + label.
Excell and Excell + green zone
- Main products concerned: floor coverings, paints, wood treatment, insulation.
- Pollutants taken into account: ketones, alcohols, glycol ethers, formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, terpenes, solvents, amines, certain flame retardants and plasticizers (phthalates).
- Specificities : excludes or sets thresholds certain phthalates, pesticides and odorous compounds that are non-toxic but unpleasant.
The European Ecolabel and NF environment, a plus?
Yes. “Virtuous” for the environment, these labels do not consider emissions, but restrict the content of VOCs and other hazardous substances in the composition.