Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Furnishings and the Healthy House

The Basics of Furnishings

If you want to create a healthy indoor environment, you can make smart choices in purchasing new furnishings or refurbishing old ones.

Furnishings, drapery, and carpeting can be a significant source of indoor air pollutants. These pollutants can potentially have a variety of affects on health, including allergies; skin, eye, or throat irritation; headaches and more. Many furnishings contain contaminants such as formaldehyde, irritating fibers, synthetic dyes, resins, volatile organic compounds, and anti-stain coatings.


  • Avoid synthetic upholstery and opt for natural fibers that have preferably not been treated with anti-stain or other coatings.
  • Strive for coverings and pillow covers of cotton or similar natural material that can be periodically washed. Throws can cover cushions and washed frequently, particularly if you have pets.
  • Select natural wood furniture and furniture with hard surfaces such as metal. These hard surfaces are good for minimizing dust and fibers in the air. Hard surfaces are also easier to clean. Avoid particle board, chip board, and plywood that often contains formaldehyde.
  • Select water-based or natural finishes over synthetic oil-based finishes and stains.
  • Avoid soft-plastics that can release volatile organic compounds into the air.


  • Select natural materials, such as cotton drapery, that can be washed.
  • Venetian or wood blinds are a good option to minimize dust.


  • Tile, hardwood, and marble are preferred over wall-to-wall carpeting. Formaldhyde is often used in carpet backing and padding as well as adhesives. Synthetic carpets are often a source of volatile organic compounds. Hard surfaces are easier to clean and don't trap dust, pollens and other allergens.
  • If you prefer throw rugs, select natural fibers, such as sisal or cotton.

Look out for more tips in the next post.

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