Safer Building Materials and Safe Construction Materials

Contains references about toxic substances that are commonly used in ALL remodeling, building and construction work. Many reference sources, material lists and web-links are provided. Readers can insist on safe/safer materials, which are available locally at costs comparable to commonly-used harmful materials that primarily contain carcinogens such as formaldehyde, volatile organic compounds and a variety of harmful substances. Safer materials have NO carcinogens and are rated zero-VOC.

Monday, May 28, 2012


Another Domestic Health Hazard for Women

In addition to the actual health hazards below, another domestic health danger endangers a majority of women.

Through the years, there have been many reports on the toxic chemicals found in nail polish. Here are a few links to credible sources with reports on the hazards to human health from nail polish.

Reportedly, one very safe alternative to toxic nail polish is PiggyPaint for children. There must be others, but that research project reaches beyond the central purpose of the information about Safer Materials.

Thursday, January 10, 2008


Safe Material List

(Updated now and then since the original creation date listed above. Latest update May 2012, to replace some discontinued weblinks with current ones.)



“In the last several years, a growing body of scientific evidence has indicated that the air within homes and other buildings can be more seriously polluted than the outdoor air in even the largest and most industrialized cities.”
(Above quote from “The Inside Story: A Guide to Indoor Air Quality” from U.S. EPA and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Office of Radiation and Indoor Air (6609J). EPA Document # 402-K-93-007.

*** Note to the reader of these pages: The overwhelming majority of the references and opinions about materials and construction methods came from a variety of sources. Fortunately, there are many people, companies and governments that are concerned about having safe materials in their environment, especially inside their own homes.

There are alternate safer materials that are available instead of most materials that are commonly being used. In general, the safer materials do not contain carcinogens and do not contain any volatile organic compounds (VOC). Carcinogens are substances that are known to cause cancer or are highly suspect of causing cancer. VOC compounds can contribute to many health problems, some of which are respiratory problems and/or cancer.

Eventually when consumers demand healthy materials in their homes, those materials, which are available to purchase now, will be used by builders and remodelers. The author has spoken with many "stick-built" builders, modular home builders, lumber yards, etc., and the vast majority do not use the safe materials. Additionally, the vast majority of those businesses are resistant to changing their materials and to consider using safer materials.

This information consists of a compilation by the author and in no way should this be considered a complete reference source. Other materials also are available; however, the following building and remodeling materials can be obtained now in Michigan. The author is a homeowner with limited experience in remodeling his personal residences. Several of the products have been used by the author. Many have not. This compilation is provided for reference and discussion. The author does not personally verify any of the following information. This blog contains web-links to products from many manufacturers. Any decisions to use the products are entirely the responsibility of the reader.

For an excellent, informative, easy-to-understand slide show with information about toxic chemicals in our households, see the Green Building Presentation, which was prepared by the Massachusetts Toxics Use Reduction Networking (TURN) Grant Program, Toxic Reduction Institute, University of Massachusetts, Lowell, MA. (Click on Presentation to display the slide show.)
 Español - Spanish Language Version:
American Lung Association Health House Builder Guidelines
Tip Sheets for the following: Mold Control, Radon, Humidifiers, Dehumidifiers, Gas Fireplaces, Backdrafting
Indoor Air Quality


Panel & Foam Adhesive – DAP Low VOC #7079827025
Subfloor adhesive – Handi-Stick Subfloor Adhesive
Construction adhesive - Handi-Stick Construction Adhesive
Seal Windows and Doors – Handi-Seal Window and Door Sealant
Drywall Adhesive - Titebond Solvent Free Drywall Adhesive

Insulation - EPS Foam to outside of poured concrete basement
Waterproofing – Thoroseal or equivalent
Basement is to be planned for interior finish of plain walls (faux brick) ONLY. To avoid hidden mold, mildew and water leaks, leave the complete basement exterior walls unfinished, without drywall covering. They can be painted with AFM Mexeseal.

Controlling Radon - Second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S.
Slide Shows - Explain Radon (easy-read)
A Citizen’s Guide to Radon: Protecting Yourself and Your Family
Control of Radon in New Residential Buildings
Radon Reduction: How to Fix Your Home
Map of Indoor Radon Zones in Michigan (listed for example - search for similar maps where you live)
Radon Test KitsReal Estate Radon Test, Open Land Radon Test, Radon-in-Water Test
Test kits are available for nominal cost at most County Department of Environmental Quality Offices.

One commercial source with a complete assortment is

►Kitchen and bathroom cabinets should NOT be constructed with ANY particleboard or any plywood panels made with urea formaldehyde glue. Preferably, all-wood cabinets will be used, selected by homeowner.
►If plywood is used, ask for cabinets made with PureBond Plywood, which is manufactured without (NONE) formaldehyde.

Kitchen Cabinets are major sources of household toxins.The majority of kitchen cabinets are loaded with formaldehyde. They contain glues and particleboard that contain formaldehyde-based bonding agents. Use caution. While the doors of most cabinets often are actual wood, the sides, tops, and backs are usually formaldehyde-laden particleboard that has been covered with paper or vinyl that has wood-grain patterns printed on. Look at the underside edges to check. Most manufacturers do not cover the bottom edges of the panels. What looks like wood is usually not. So check.

There are several cabinet manufacturers that reportedly do not use formaldehyde-based materials:
Cabinet King Inc
Charles R Bailey Cabinet Makers
Humabuilt Wheatcore Cabinets
Kitchen Cabinet Mart (all wood, no particle board, DIY assembly)

Interior – AFM Caulking Compound
Exterior – Quality brand 50-yr latex acrylic paintable
Sealer – AFM Lock-In Wood Sanding Sealer
Stain – AFM Duro Stain
Clear Finish - AFM Polyureseal BP (gloss & satin) first coat gloss, second satin

►Granite preferred. Then Corian or Zodiaq
►Formica – bullnose edge & molded backsplash to avoid places where mold can grow (must apply 2 coats SafeSeal to particle board substrate BEFORE attaching countertop, if particle board substrate countertop is used).

Exterior Doors – insulated steel w/ window light. Two locks (deadbolt and regular) for each exterior door. All exterior locks keyed identical.

Interior Doors - all wood preferred
Humabuilt Wheatcore Doors (formaldehyde free)


Paperless Drywall - GP Gypsum Dens Armor Plus paperless drywall (no formaldehyde)
Joint Compound - Murco M100 Joint Compound, non-toxic
Primer - AFM New Wallboard Primer HPV


Lessco Outlet Boxes
►Plan to place electrical panel in garage to lessen chance of electromagnetic radiation (EMF) in house.
►Research is needed for documents that show how to avoid EMF in household electric system. (Note to reader: This is an area where the author has not found many D.I.Y. references.)


Easy-read conclusion about formaldehyde in permanent press clothing. See 6th paragraph.
Document mentions that you can reduce formaldehyde in permanent press fabrics by 60-percent with one washing. However, drapery and wallpaper constitute major contribution to introducing formaldehyde into home air, since those items usually are not washed.
Technical Report from Battelle Institute with actual measured emission levels reported.

Discussion of hazards in common household products with recommendations for safer alternative products.

Fact Sheet: Safe Substitutes at Home: Non-toxic Household Products.
Toxic chemicals in the home can be eliminated simply by making thoughtful choices in the supermarket after educating oneself about where the hazards are in common consumer products. How can you determine what toxics you have in your home? Take this "toxics tour."


►Pre-finished hardwood floors, with the exception of bathrooms (homeowner to select)
►APA Guidelines for installing hardwood floors. Download free .pdf documents for the following APA items (free registration required to view free documents described below):
- Builder Tips: Steps to Construct a Solid Squeak-Free Floor System Form P300
- Technical Note: Floor Squeaks - Causes, Solutions and Prevention Form C468
- Technical Note: APA Performance Rated Panel Subfloors Under Hardwood Flooring Form R280
- Builder Tips: Cut Callbacks with Proper Spacing and Nailing Form M300

►Bathrooms and kitchens – tile, vinyl or linoleum (homeowner to decide)
►Multiply Underlayment (goes on subfloor under the linoleum)

Report on toxic nature of carpets due to Styrene Butadiene Rubber, also known as SBR Latex. (very technical in nature)

Building Material Emissions Study by State of California – See pages 35-36 for discussion on carpeting with SBR Latex backing.

Carpet and Rug Institute Indoor Air Quality Testing and Certification – Trade association defines standards and levels for toxins in carpets. Note that total elimination of toxins is not mentioned.

There are several carpet materials without latex backing and volatile organic compounds.
Among those are:
►Mohawk Commercial Stati-Tuft III Carpet (ZERO-VOC) and
►Daltonian Carpet Pad (ZERO-VOC)

Avoid cloth coverings with latex-backing and fire retardant coatings. The same cautions apply for latex-backed fabrics as for carpets. Also, avoid fire retardant coatings. For example, after considerable searching, this blogsite author did find furniture fabrics without the latex-backing. Since furniture retailers had absolutely not a clue about what we were talking about, we looked through all their swatch samples to find cloth without any backing. The furniture manufacturer also required us to submit a letter from our doctor that stated we were allergic to fire retardant coatings, since the manufacturer is required to coat the fabrics with a fire retardant. Unfortunately, we were not able to determine if the fabric dyes were formaldehyde-based. They probably all are, but that information was not available whenever we requested it.

Fire Retardant Coatings (suspected carcinogens) (easy-read)
Fire retardant in materials in products for babies
 Latex-Backed Cloth - see same caution information as with latex-backed carpeting above


►Linoleum – Armstrong Marmorette (natural and neutral, not like smelly no-wax vinyl)
►Energy recovery ventilators for air exchange
►Fireplace, if any, should be natural gas or propane and vented to the outside.
►Forced Air HVAC, natural gas or propane.

PREFERRED – Johns Manville - the only brand name insulation available without formaldehyde, which is recognized by its white color. All other insulation that is not white contains formaldehyde.
xx♦Johns Manville ComfortTherm (poly encapsulated for use in attic & basement suspended ceiling, no itch and no stray fiberglass)
Possible alternative batts follow:
xxx♦Johns Manville MR-Faced Batts (vapor barrier and fungus retarder)
xxx♦Johns Manville Kraft-Faced Batts (interior walls)
Foam – Spider (blown fiberglass for exterior walls, actual fiberglass not foam, so no VOCs)
xx♦Johns Manville Spider
Framing – real wood, NO engineered lumber
Sill Plate – borate treated (no arsenic)
Sheathing – NO formaldehyde-laden OSB board
xx♦Georgia Pacific (GP) DensGlass
xx♦GP Thermostat Radiant Barrier Sheathing (plywood style w/ foil face)
xx♦GP Plytanium Thermostat Radiant Barrier Sheathing
xx♦Thermoply (no formaldehyde & foil-faced)xx
Subfloor - NO formaldehyde-laden OSB board
xx♦GP Plywood Sturd-I-Floor ¾-in. (subfloor)
ALL subfloor plywood needs two coats of AFM SafeSeal, both sides and edges.
xx♦Homasote 4Way Floor Decking (formaldehyde free)

xxTrim - real-wood trim, painted trim can be primed but must be finish-coated w/ AFM paint or AFM clear finishes.
xx♦Interior Doors - all wood, prefinished or finished offsite
xx♦Closet Doors – sliding mirror doorwalls
Miscellaneous Panels
xx♦Medex and Medite II (Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF) without formaldehyde)xxx

xx♦PureBond Plywood (nonstructural) made without formaldehyde xxx 
Natural latex mattresses have no synthetic foams that will offgas VOCs. Pure natural cotton coverings contain no fire retardants or formaldehyde-based dyes, which both are suspect carcinogens. This blogsite author has a 3-layer Talalay mattress with a cotton zip-on cover. However, be careful. Some mattress manufacturers use a thin layer of Talalay ONLY on the top layer, and the rest of the mattress has synthetic foam and other mysterious components. When we purchased our mattress, NOT ONE of the major manufacturers would reveal the materials in their mattresses. And none of them made any mattresses without fire retardant. See fire retardant discussion in Upholstered Furniture Section above. Also, dust mites reportedly do not like latex mattresses.
►Latex International (not a retail outlet)

Ceilings – AFM Flat Enamel
Walls – AFM Eggshell Enamel
Cement - AFM Mexeseal – coat cement floor, garage or basement
Barrier - AFM SafeSeal – two coats each side of subfloor including all edges
xxBarrier coat for sealing in odors on plywood and particle board follows:

Drain Lines – ABS plastic
Supply Lines – copper
xx♦La-Co Plasto-Joint Stick (non-toxic pipe thread compound)
xxx xx♦StaPut non-toxic plumbing putty
Well casing – galvanized. NO ABS or PVC PIPE (plastic can offgas VOCs).
Winterizing – design plumbing system, so water lines can be drained of all water if homeowners want to leave for warmer locations during Michigan winters.

►Standing seam baked-on-painted metal roof preferred. Hopefully, without gutters, the water from the roof can drain directly away from the house and not collect around the house foundation. Suggest using concrete or metal troughs underneath the gutters where the water drains off the roof, and fill troughs with large loose gravel. This plan could eliminate periodic cleaning of gutters and downspouts. Also, it helps to prevent mold growth from the collected decaying leaves in gutters.

►Hardiplank or Vinyl (Builder to advise homeowner)
xx♦ColorPlus - Color Plus comes prefinished in many exterior colors.

xx♦Soffits and trim from Hardi also to match siding
xx♦Vinyl siding is last choice of homeowner, but not eliminated.
xx♦T-111 w/ eco-friendly stain/sealer might work with more “vacation home” house design

►National Gypsum Gridstone Suspended Ceiling Panels (odorless, moldless, drywall squares with PVC covering)

►Vinyl or fiberglass double-insulated w/ colors to coordinate with siding and interior. Builder and homeowner should decide.

Handicap accessible – 3-ft is good enough inside. ALL DOORS – interior and exterior should be handicap accessible

SPECIAL NOTE: Suggested sample material-specific list to give to your builder follows:
REQUIRED MATERIAL LIST: List ALL the materials (every single item) that you want.
NO CHANGES OR SUBSTITUTIONS - There will be no substitutions without written approval of homeowner. Any substitutions must be removed at the expense of the company who was responsible. Any damages from removal must be repaired, so that the removal cannot be detected. (For example, if the wrong caulk is used, that caulk must be scraped off and removed. If the material under the caulk is damaged, that material must be replaced at the expense of the person who used the wrong caulk. Or, for example, the wrong pipe thread compound was used, the fitting needs to be taken apart to remove the wrong material, and all threaded fittings must be redone with the correct material at the plumber’s expense.)

Pollution Sites in Livingston County, Michigan - Township Maps

(Example for reference purposes. Look for similar maps in your location)
Livingston County Environmental Awareness Handbook – Includes maps of known pollution sites for every Township.

 Safety information on carpeting:

 Reference document on various toxins in houses:

Safe Substitutes at Home to Reduce Ozone
 Indoor Air Pollutants from Household Products

Reference documents on formaldehyde:
To measure formaldehyde in your household, there is a formaldehyde detector manufactured by RKI Instruments, Inc., which costs approximately $1,
WORD OF CAUTION: This blogsite author rented a RKI detector, which did NOT work. After return, Hazco never responded.
Special Note: This blogsite is titled Safer Material List, because an absolutely totally SAFE material probably would not exist.

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2008-01-06   2012-05-27  

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