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Caution, living poisons! Dealing with paints and varnishes
Caution, living poisons! Dealing with paints and varnishes

Video: Caution, living poisons! Dealing with paints and varnishes

Отличия серверных жестких дисков от десктопных
Video: Artist Problems - Fumes 2023, February

Furniture and building materials can also make you sick. Many people are allergic to the evaporation of carpets, upholstery or varnishes. However, the search for the poisons or pollutants is often lengthy and expensive. Read our overview on the subject of living poisons.

Living can make you sick. Not only mold or asbestos are dangerous, but also the so-called volatile organic compounds (VOC). These outgassing of building materials, carpets, furniture, paints and adhesives cause unpleasant smells and cause health problems.

Everyone reacts differently to pollutants, because not everyone is equally sensitive. Living poisons can trigger allergies or irritate the respiratory tract, skin and eyes. Those affected also complain of tiredness and headaches or simply feel weak. However, depending on the toxicity, the symptoms can become more serious, organs can be damaged or cancer can be caused.

Tedious search for causes

The search for the causes of the health problems is often very difficult. After all, the danger can come from many corners - from the floor covering, the new furniture or a certain paint job. If problems arise after a renovation, the reasons may be easier to find. Sometimes the stress is strongest in the first period after work and then soon subsides again. Extensive ventilation over a certain period of time may already help. Your own sense of smell can serve as a first clue when searching for the cause. But not everything that is toxic stinks.

Test Formaldehyd
Test Formaldehyd

Sometimes a professional has to do it: Qualified construction biologists can provide concrete evidence of the possible indoor pollution caused by formaldehyde and related substances.

Photo: Saint Gobain Rigips

If the information about pollutants in the living room becomes more specific, a doctor should be consulted. There are doctors who specialize in environmental toxins. Experts can help to identify sources of danger. Tenants should consult with their landlord if they want to consult an appraiser. Usually, the client who bears an opinion also bears the costs.

Measures to remove pollutants can only be taken after an in-depth analysis and proof of the exposure by experts. If you are unlucky, you have to move out of the house or apartment so that the causes of the nuisance can be combated.

Common poisons

  • Formaldehyde: The most well-known environmental poison that occurs in homes is formaldehyde. It is used for interior construction and in the production of chipboard for furniture. Formaldehyde is still an issue, even though we now know that it can cause headaches, irritate eyes and mucous membranes, and cause cancer. Formaldehyde smells pungent and can easily be found as a source of danger.
  • Pyrethroids: These insecticides can be found in carpets, for example: They are used to control pests - for example as a remedy for moths. Air and house dust can be polluted by fiber abrasion. Toddlers, especially crawling, can be exposed to these substances through skin or hand-mouth contact. Possible consequences include skin irritation, headache, dizziness, nausea, fatigue or even nerve damage.
  • Diethylhexyl phthalate: This substance, also known by the abbreviation DEHP, is used as a plasticizer for plastics. Animal studies have shown that DEHP can damage the testicles as well as the liver. Most of these poisons lead to tired eyes and nausea, headache and weakness. Unfortunately, the variety of symptoms does not make the search for the causes easy.
  • Polychlorinated biphenyls: Another living poison are polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB), which evaporate from flame retardants. Long-term damage can affect the immune system.

Paints and varnishes

Paints, glazes and varnishes can have a negative impact on both health and the environment. The most dangerous components are synthetic, organic solvents and dyes. Natural paint manufacturers alternatively offer natural resin paints and emulsion paints.

Pollutants: Glazes and varnishes often contain synthetic resins, i.e. chemically modified natural substances (alkyd resins) or fully synthetic substances (acrylates). Toxic emissions and waste are generated during production. In addition, allergy-causing molecules can escape during the coating process. In addition, solvents such as benzene and xylene, which are aromatic hydrocarbons, contain butyl glycol and the plasticizer dimethlyl phthalate.

Effect: While synthetic resins mainly cause allergies, benzene has long been exposed as a clearly carcinogenic. Xylene attacks the central nervous system by weakening concentration and influencing the sense of sight and balance. Butylglycol had negative effects on red blood cells in animal experiments.

Alternatives: Natural resin varnishes, as well as emulsion paints that only contain water as a solvent, are always preferable.

Although natural colors are usually more expensive, they protect the environment. They can be mixed just as easily as conventional colors. Lime and linseed oil paints are particularly good here.

Lacke in Dosen
Lacke in Dosen

Paints and varnishes can have a negative impact on health.

Photo: living4media / Johnér

Wood protection - anything but natural

Wood is a feast for mold and beetles. That is why wood preservatives are often used. However, these not only poison the unpleasant guests, but can also have a harmful effect on people. Wood preservatives are usually not necessary.

Pollutants: Wood preservatives often contain organohalogen compounds, the fungal poison dichlorfluanide and the insecticide permethrin. Although most of the remedies are free of PCP and lindane, these substitutes are far from being as safe as has long been assumed.

Effect: According to Gerd Schneider, chemist from the interest group of wood preservative sufferers (IHG), many substances diffuse from the wood and accumulate in the long term, especially in the immune and nervous system. Dichloroflaunide vaporizes easily and is suspected of causing cancer and changing the genome. Permethrin is often found in higher concentrations in house dust and can cause allergies.

Alternatives: Building law no longer prescribes wood protection in interior spaces. Even in damp rooms, such as bathrooms and in the roof structure, chemistry is completely unnecessary.

The choice of wood helps: native woods such as pine, larch and robinia are less likely to be attacked by fungi and insects. In addition, the heartwood from the center of the trunk is usually more resistant than sapwood. Clever constructions on the outside walls protect against wood infestation, for example recessed windows and doors, drip edges and sufficient roof overhang. The wood can also be sealed with hard wax.


Wood protection no longer has to be toxic.

Photo: epr / Alpina

Paint remover - A hot thing

Paint strippers are used to remove paint on wood, stone, metal and plaster. Many products work with organic solvents or with harsh alkalis. Both endanger healthy living and pollute the environment.

Pollutants: The first product group uses solvents such as methanol and dichloromethane. In addition, tensides and thickeners such as paraffin and methyl cellulose are used. The second group of paint strippers removes old layers of paint with sodium hydroxide solution, which - relatively speaking - is more environmentally friendly, but is irritating to the eyes and respiratory tract. Lyes also etch strongly.

Effect: These products have repeatedly led to serious, sometimes fatal accidents. The contact of dichloromethane with open fire or radiators, for example, could produce phosgene, a poison gas from World War II. Dichloromethane is suspected to be carcinogenic. This substance evaporates quickly and is very easily inhaled.

Alternatives: If you want to do without aggressive chemicals, it is not easy. Sanding the furniture is one option. There are now devices that can be connected to the vacuum cleaner.

The healthiest way to remove paint is with steel wool, sandpaper, planes and lots of muscle power. You will hardly be able to avoid paint strippers - or hot air guns - only in cracks and grooves. Otherwise: Wear glasses and rubber gloves when handling alkalis. Do not smoke or eat at work.

Protect yourself from potential living poisons

If you build a house yourself, you probably have the best cards to influence the building materials. When selecting the building materials, he should make sure that they contain no solvents if possible. It is best to buy tested products.

Blauer Engel
Blauer Engel

The Blue Angel is a well-known German environmental seal.

The best known seal here is probably the “Blue Angel”, which has been around since 1977. The award of this eco-label promotes goods and services that are environmentally friendly compared to conventional offers. If used properly, they also have no or only a minor adverse health effect, as the Federal Environment Agency writes. The labeling is voluntary and can be requested by the manufacturer of a product. For the duration of the use of the eco-label, he is contractually obliged to comply with the associated requirements. If renovation work is required or if new furniture is to be purchased, the DIY enthusiast has a range of varnishes, wallpapers, wall paints, panels, floors, flooring adhesives and also furniture that is labeled with the "Blue Angel".


The euro flower is another environmental seal.

Another seal of approval is the European Ecolabel, which was introduced in 1992 (also known as Euroblume or EU Ecolabel). It is used to identify consumer goods that are intended to be particularly environmentally friendly and have a comparatively low health impact. The frequently tested products include mattresses, lights, wall paints, lacquers, paper as well as household and electrical appliances.

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