(Reading Warning: this is a long post so put your reading glasses on and get on with reading it.)
In our last post in the series ‘Part II: An Allergy-Free, Eco-Friendly Kitchen: ‘What Are Your Countertops Hiding‘ by The Labyrinth’s lovely Guest Blogger Jennifer, aka The Allergista, who posted about avoiding skin contact allergens and chemical-irritants when choosing your benchtop coating!
Thank you, Jennifer xoxo.
Today, however, we share ideas on creating a low-allergy, low-chemical-irritant containing, eco-friendly kitchen; all while avoiding inhalant allergens and chemical-irritants! This post is peppered with helpful tips from Building Biologist: Raphael Siket, Director of Ecolibria, right here in Torquay on the Surf Coast of Victoria, Australia!
A few months back, he visited the Build an Eco-Friendly, Allergy-Free House project to make some recommendations on 2 of the potential mould issues we’re facing due to steel beam placement (and, until our latest (almost), and hopefully only mega-mould disaster hit, which I will blog on later, we thought all mould issues were under control. Some of you may know, they are not! But more on this later.
(Once I fully have calmed down, gathered all the assessment notes, water readings, Remediation advice and our building surveyor’s opinion, I promise to share all the growing Hyphae details from the metaphorical Petri-Dish, our house!, as soon as I get our plan back on the track to an ERMI under no. 2.)
First, more about our Building Biologist, Raphael, from the Ecolibria website:
“Ecolibria is proud to announce that they are now helping to create and build customised healthy homes. A home constructed from ethical, healthy and great quality materials and finishes and one that embraces the high and exacting standards of building in accordance with your specific requirements and our Building Biology principles that will help to create a home that supports your health and well being.
We are now able to help build homes to the west of Melbourne from Werribee to the Bellarine Peninsula, along the Great Ocean Road and out to Colac.”
This is great news for people who need low-toxic, mould-free and allergen-free homes that have a low impact on the environment, yes? However, we employed Raphael to come out to our build to help us choose the right solutions for the issues we are facing. One of these have been taken care of, and bricks are going about around it as I write.
On one of the forums I hang out on, in regards to a different product, not the Ecological Panels, another chemically sensitive person asked me:
“What about when the kitchen heats up when the oven is being used, especially in summer? What if it releases irritants that make me sick?” What a great question! And it’s one I asked Raphael.
So after talking through our potential mould issues, this was one of the last issues we touched upon: baking out our kitchen before installing it. This is such a great idea. For us, the materials are still being decided upon, one of which I’m sharing with you today: Ecological Panels! (There’s one more product we’ve found but I’ll write about it next time in the ‘Allergy-Free, Eco-Friendly Kitchen Series’.)
Here are some hot tips we put together from talking to Raphael, Building Biologist from EcoLibria:
Order the kitchen panels weeks, months even before installing them;
- If you are chemically sensitive, have a medical condition such as Asthma, CIRS, MCS, Pulmonary Disease or any other condition impacted on by chemical-irritants, wood terpenes or a lack of oxygen, please make sure you have someone else carry out this procedure for you. And, like me, no matter how much you want to check out what’s going on, stay away until the cabinets have been assembled;
- Place them inside the house where there is good air-flow;
- Set up some shelving against the wall in the kitchen area (of course the space is empty so there’s lots of room to carry this out! You could use hardwood beams and concrete blocks; or get your carpenter to set them up, fixing them to the wall like we most likely will.)
- Have fans running, pointed in the direction of the shelving (We have industrial fans being used on other parts of the house that we will use. They are big, noisy, blowy fans, perfect for the job): They are called ‘Industrial Fans’ at Bunnings;
- Place the pieces of the kitchen separately on the temporary shelves;
- Give them a wipe over with a solution of bicarbonate of soda, vinegar or you preferred cleaning product (I usually use Seventh Generation Free and Clear: All Purpose Cleaner but in this case, I’d start with the bicarbonate of soda as it absorbs chemicals, odours etc.);
- Make sure there is plenty of airflow between the boards, holding the panels to help them outgass their ‘newness’;
- At a temperature of 30-33 Degrees Celsius, heat the house up periodically, for 12-24 hours each time to bake out any wood terpenes, chemical-irritants (depending on what product you choose to use) or any residual odours left over from handling or manufacturing; keep the fans running as this will help the process along nicely;
- After each baking session, turn the heat off completely, leave the fans running and open all the windows of the house (ceiling fans will help greatly at this point; and there will be no furnishings in the house to reabsorb anything related into the air.);
We spoke about getting workers to go fragrance-free for the project (more tips on this coming up in another post); and we touched on some of the materials available.
The first and most impressive on my list:
A wood sheeting somewhat like particleboard (aka chipboard in some countries) but unlike particleboard at all because it does not contain formaldehyde or other any other chemical-irritants. However, this product looks like real kitchen board, therefore, it is real kitchen board! It is also made in Europe; another bonus due to their high standards when it comes to harmful chemicals and consumers:
“The World Health Organisation lists formaldehyde as a known carcinogen. The risk depends on the concentration. You can start your research by reading this WHO document.
Very unfortunately, many Australian homes, work places and schools have furniture made in countries where formaldehyde is of little or no concern. This furniture may contain dangerous levels of formaldehyde. Even good quality furniture made in Australia can be made of panels, which may contain arguably dangerous levels of formaldehyde.
Some local panel manufacturers and suppliers – to their credit – boast product which meet the Super E0 standard, but these come at a significant price premium. The SuperE0 standard requires no more than 0.3ppm formaldehyde. Ecological Panel has just 0.05ppm – eight times less than the Super E0 standard. In fact, Ecological Panel has so little formaldehyde that it is like natural timber. And it is price competitive.
Moreover, whilst many panel products can boast lower formaldehyde emissions, they may still emit substances of very high concern or (SVHC) as listed by the European Chemical Agency. You can see the list on the ECHA List. Ecological Panel contains none of the chemicals listed.”
Ecological Panel. The only truly green, low-toxic, formaldehyde-free particle board on the market in Australia that I have located so far! And because it’s made to European standards and regulations, it’s a damn site safer than your average particle board, aka chipboard. This type of board is used in most kitchens and has been for years. Sometimes it’s completely sealed in laminate. And, as mentioned, because it’s formaldehyde-free it is a total bonus for canaries (and Phoenixes) and people who have illnesses impacted on by chemical-irritants.
(See Part II: ‘What Are Your Countertops Hiding‘ by The Allergista for avoiding skin contact allergens and chemical-irritants when choosing your benchtop coating! You can also download her free guide to finding the latest Allergy and Eczema Products while you are there.)
There are a few options with this board:
Most people will go for the budget option and have it laminated; and it can be ordered this way. This could be okay if you test the product to make sure you are okay with your inhalant allergies, or airway inflammation, such as in my case caused by CIRS. And, you might be able to test it for any dermatology type reactions, or, if you do have skin allergies you can ask your specialist or doctor, or better still, do what us science-based bloggers do: do your own research. Ask your kitchen cabinet maker what’s in the laminate; for a list of the usual suspects for skin allergies in laminate, you can start here at ‘Part II: An Allergy-Free, Eco-Friendly Kitchen: ‘What Are Your Countertops Hiding‘ by The Allergista
You can see all of the replicated colours of wood, stone, fabrics, here.
I’ve had a pile of samples sitting on my desk taunting me with what I need to be doing (this, writing about the product! While sick, laying in bed watching Netflix and sucking on Oxygen. Yes, Facebook too!). All the time, I couldn’t smell a thing, nor have I ever felt sick when I slept with the above pile on my bedside table. (I only aired them for 2 days outside before bringing them into my airspace.) As I do with everything but, it’s usually a standard 2-4 week venture of airing a product before bringing them in for testing on my airways. Always, always, Dan, my build partner, carer and part-time editor (Yep, you can now blame him for my spelling mistakes. (No, not really, you are all still free to pick them out and email me about them, here, at The Labyrinth, lol) He’s also chief sniffer around here.
Dan’s result? Nada Nothing. And he’s got a nose, I can tell you!
But Really, What Does it Smell Like?
Once aired, subjectively, of course, I notice a slight woody odour. Not like chipboard, which I have had to cover with Aluminium foil as suggested by one of my treating doctors, in the past. My only concern, and this is a personal one, is the amount of pine that has gone into the product: terpenes outgassing into my living space could be an issue if I am actually chemically sensitive as opposed to having CIRS with chemical symptoms as a result of that. Meaning that if, or rather when I recover from CIRS, terpenes won’t be a problem for me. However, if I am still chemically sensitive (actually have MCS, even though it doesn’t have a medical code, yet, in Australia; therefore might not exist if I go to the Emergency Ward at a hospital), then having terpenes in my kitchen could be an issue difficult to deal with if the kitchen is already installed. Foil anyone?
Other Options for Using Ecological Board in Your Kitchen if Wood Terpene Sensitive
Even traditional chipboard can be completely sealed in for some people sensitive to irritants. But with this low VOC cabinet panels, my research shows you could have them sealed in a 2 Pac finish; similar to that of a powder coated (baked on paint) colour of your choice. Matt, semi-gloss or gloss. I’d go for matt in Ecru (a light tan/beige colour). Someone with terpene allergies could seal the lot: cabinets, kickboards and doors. Or, the next solution in Part IV of An Allergy-Free, Eco-Friendly Kitchen
What is a 2 Pac Kitchen Cabinet Finish?
More from Home Improvement Pages.com:
2 pac or 2 pak is short for 2 pack. “Two packs of what?” you ask. That’s where it gets a little complicated.
Most paints and clear finishes are solvent based. The solvents, or thinners, are what enable the finish to be applied with spraying equipment. When they evaporate, the finish hardens and sticks to the surface. 2 pack finishes work differently. A 2 pack finish consists of two containers (packs) of liquids:
- One pack contains a resin composed of acrylic paint and melamine.
- The other pack is a hardener, Poly-isocyanate Resin.
When the two packs are mixed together, a chemical reaction occurs that causes the mix to harden. Because only a small amount of solvent is in the mix, almost nothing is lost by evaporation and the result is a thicker, harder finish. The disadvantages of 2 pac are all in the process of applying the finish:
- 2 pac dries slowly, so must be applied in a dust-free environment.
- Heat speeds up the drying process, so a temperature controlled environment is ideal.
- The hardener contains isocyanate, a toxic chemical. The person who sprays a 2 pac finish must wear a special breathing device and work in a ventilated spray booth to apply it safely.
2 pac finishes are safe after they dry, but applying them requires expertise and an expensive spray booth and equipment. That’s why 2 pac finishes are more expensive than others.
It can be coated and baked in 2-pack paint, where it becomes similar to powder coating on metal. It’s resilient to small hands, chips and dents caused by day to day life.
This would be the most sensible option, especially for the doors if you can afford it and have done your research into which paint the company you choose would use. If we do our kitchens, yes, I have a small one upstairs and Dan has the main one downstairs. (There is a external door from Zenit Windows that seals the upstairs off form downstairs.
This is what Ecological Board have to say about their product:
Beautiful and available in many flat, embossed (vertical & horizontal), super-hard finishes utilising ultra-high quality 120gsm melamined paper. This makes it suitable for medium-duty bench tops (like vanities and work stations). It’s ideal for sustainable building.
- Non toxic. It is certified to be the lowest formaldehyde-emission, recycled particleboard on Earth. The SuperE0 standard specifies no more than 0.3ppm formaldehyde. Ecological Panel’s 0.05ppm leaves this in its wake, and easily meets the CARB Phase 2 criteria. And it is completely free of nasty VOCs. On top of all this, it boasts a negative carbon footprint.
- The Earth’s only panel whose substrate is made from 100% certified post-consumer-recycled particleboard – making it one of the most sustainable building products. Adding the lamination means Ecological Panel is certified FSC Mix 99%. But this doesn’t demonstrate Ecological Panel’s strength. To better understand, see the page on recycling.
- Made in Italy by one of the largest panel makers in the world, with more than 50 years experience
- Available in economical machine size at 3640x1860mm with matching 21 x 1 mm ABS edging.
Competitive in price with non-‘green’, non-recycled, E1 emission boards* *excludes carcass material.
What are those green bits mixed in with the wood?
The Trade Marked green dye shows that the product is water resistant. Typically, people can have this in wet areas. Personally, I thought the dark green pieces were Rat Sack (small forest-green-coloured pellets sold as rat and mice poison, which in Australia can kill small so-called ‘pests’ but also marsupials that are on our endangered list, here on the Surf Coast, The Bellarine and The Mornington Peninsula of Victoria.
Where to Get it
There are 27 pick-up points around Australia.
Ecological Panel is distributed in Australia and New Zealand by Zoneform Pty Ltd.
03 9015 7900
Certifications and Data Sheets for Ecological Panels
Other Supporting Documents
From Ecological Board: Material Data Sheet
From Ecological Board: CARB Certificate
From Ecological Board: Re-Made in Italy
From Ecological Board: Saviola FSC Certificate
From Ecological Board: Warranty
2 Pac Information Information
2 Pac Information: Home Improvement Pages
Just one choice (so far) of Low VOC 2Pac paints (cut and polish, single pack) can be provided by Northern Industrial Coatings at Thomastown.
More Research that I Found out just for you
Ecological Board tell me that it’s the trade secret on the dark-forest-green-coloured ingredient speckled throughout that keeps the VOC so low. I respect that they don’t keep it a secret that it’s actually a secret, trademarked ingredient! It has passed Europe’s strict laws on harmful chemical-irritants, which is far better than anything Australia has to offer as far as manufactured boards and panels go,
More from Ecological Panels:
“Moreover, whilst many panel products can boast lower formaldehyde emissions, they may still emit substances of very high concern or (SVHC) as listed by the European Chemical Agency. You can see the list on the ECHA List. Ecological Panel contains none of the chemicals listed.”
The Australian Ecological Panel suppliers accept the fact that the company that makes them say that it doesn’t contain any of the-above-mentioned chemical-irritants. If you have a particular ingredient toxin or chemical irritant that you need to know about they will tell you if it’s in there. And, they don’t have the green tick because of that ingredient in the resin.
I like that this product has passed the ECHA standards, and of course because it’s sold as mould impervious.
A lower spec version is sold to Ikea because it’s the lowest emission board available. This E1 product meets the super E zero. This version has 6 times less emissions than Ikea’s version.
Most definitely, the best things going for this product are the fact there are no VOCs or formaldehyde!
Fun Mould Fact!
In Imported Italian Kitchens, the cabinetmakers often leave voids behind the cabinets; these allow air flow behind, meeting the air pocket under the cabinet, behind the kick-board. In Australia, with no sufficient building code at all for mould prevention, they are built, put back hard up against the wall; if moisture gets into such a tiny gap, mould will grow. Instead they set it off the wall by 30 mm, which decreases the growth of mould. This is what I will be telling our kitchen cabinet maker.
Oak Doors can be bought at High-tech, just ask for Mario in Camberfield. I am told these are the best quality doors if you are to have oak, which I think looks lovely in a matt clear coating, just to protect the wood while highlighting it’s natural finish.
The Eco-Friendly, Allergy-Free Kitchen Series
An Allergy-Free, Eco-Friendly Kitchen—Oak. Glass or uPVC or Composite Panels?
An Allergy-Free, Eco-Friendly Kitchen—By The Allergista: What are Your Countertops Hiding?
An Allergy-Free, Eco-Friendly Kitchen—Ecological Panels, and Building Biology Service, EcoLibria
An Allergy-Free, Eco-Friendly Kitchen—uPVC Board
An Allergy-Free, Eco-Friendly Kitchen—Benchtops
An Allergy-Free, Eco-Friendly Kitchen ~ A Recap on the Low Irritant Kitchen
Do like this product? Would you use it? Or: What is your low VOC, low chemical-irritant kitchen made out of?