An Allergy-Free, Eco-Friendly Kitchen ~ uPVC Board

uPVC Polymer Board

Due to my sensitivities to terpenes, as tested and diagnosed by my Allergist and Immunologist, Dr Colin Little, I think we will be using uPVC (or PVCu if you’re in Europe) board for the cabinets, not the doors, just the carcass. Think pharmaceutical bottles: hard white plastic. Well this board is like that but baked so it’s even sturdier. Pine is a huge problem for me due to the terpenes (the frame of our house is made from hardwood, which I will be blogging about next. Hardwood is not generally used in kitchens unless it’s a softer wood like oak, which is costly. (You can read more about oak as doors here [link coming soon].) (And you can read more about a Green and formaldehyde free chipboard/particleboard, Ecological Panel, here.)

What is uPVC?

Regular PVC (polyvinyl chloride) is a common, strong but lightweight plastic used in products such as underground piping (Due to the PBA’s contained, we used it only for the outgoing sewage pipes.). It can be made more pliable with the addition of plasticisers, which may contain phthalates. If no plasticisers are added, it is known as uPVC (unplasticized polyvinyl chloride); or in the US, it’s called  ‘vinyl siding’ or rigid PVC. So the ‘u’ just means that it’s un-plasticised, more durable and a harder product without the plastic softeners such as phthalates!

Is it Safe for People with Health Issues?

From Diffen, where you can compare anything:

Safety and Risks

PVC-coated wires can form HCl fumes in a fire, which can be a health hazard. Plasticizers may leach out of PVC into the environment.

Phthalates are what allow PVC to be flexible. Some of the phthalates used in PVC have been restricted or banned over the years, and many others are being replaced with safer phthalates. Dibutylbenzyl butyl, and DEHP are some of the more commonly banned or restricted phthalates.

To date, there are no mainstream concerns regarding the use of uPVC, which does not use phthalates or BPA.

Read more about the differences here

modern contemporary kitchen

(Source: image from Pixabay)

What if you’re Chemically Sensitive to Plastic?

It probably doesn’t need to be pointed out that if you have contact allergies, inhalant allergies or sensitivities to plastics, then you wouldn’t use this product. Personally, I have tested it extensively (meaning slept with it on my bedside table, and later, held it to my face, and placed it in the sun to see what happens when it heats up…). I don’t have breathing problems with plastic; ergo, plastic bags from the supermarket cause my eyes, nose and upper respiratory irritation due to the cleaning chemicals and fragrances embedded in them just from where they are stored: in shops that sell chemicals alongside foods?! (*Don’t worry; it’s perfectly safe to eat bread that tastes like cleaning chemicals*) I’ve also asked my doctors, both specialists in allergies and sensitivities, about using this uPVC in our window frames, and possibly our kitchen. uPVC is on my safe list. You need to check before adding it to yours or someone else’s who has sensitivities to chemical irritants. It’s also noteworthy that many people who suffer physical symptoms from exposure to plastic, often, due to petrochemicals, or it’s the plasticisers that make PVC soft for other uses, like dog or children’s toys, that are causing the issues. (Yeah, I see that, due to phthalates, they may not be safe for anyone! The book, Slow Death by Rubber Duck gives good examples and citations on this issue.) However, this is not a rule. We are all so different; and, I am not a scientist or a doctor, just in case you didn’t know!

It can be confusing, I know. If you just remember the ‘U’, which stands for unplasticised and means it’s a different material than PVC, which is the softer plastic, often containing PBAs and/or phthalates  depending on where it is sourced from.

Some uPVC products are stabilised with other chemicals; but I’ll get to this with my post on uPVC windows from Zenit Windows asap. Just because we are chemically sensitive, in my opinion, it doesn’t mean that we need to live without chemicals. They are useful; we need them! They can help us solve many of the issues we have to deal with. Again, there are no rules; we are all different. I think people who are mould sensitive may do better with this type of material due to the fact it cannot absorb water.

Use in Outdoor Kitchens

uPVC board is used to make outdoor kitchens because it is resistant to mould and moisture buildup. Your Custom Cabinets in Geelong kindly gave us a large sample piece to take home for testing purposes. Now this was before we decided on the Zenit uPVC window frames, so I was dubious because of the uPVC and tips from some solid sources on the internet in regards to choosing products for people with chemical sensitivities, however, the anti-mould factor won my attention because this board is mostly used for outdoor kitchens as explained by Rod during our outdoor meeting.

More from ‘Your Custom Cabinets’ Outdoor Kitchens

“Take advantage of your outdoor living area with one of Your Custom Cabinets outdoor kitchens. Transform your backyard, patio or entertainment area with custom cabinets or an outdoor kitchen or barbecue. Talk to Your Custom Cabinets joinery for ideas on benchtops, cabinets and shelving and we can custom build the perfect outdoor entertaining area for your home.”

The board is mould proof, inert, and baked so that it’s hard. I have heard, from other sources, that if painted in 2pak (which is baked on just like powder-coated paint) and left to bake in the sun—as outdoor kitchens are left to do—and, if not under the cover of a veranda or similar structure, the paint will fade, especially the darker shades. However, indoors, we won’t have this problem.

How does it Feel to Touch?

If I were to describe how it feels: it’s dense, heavy and solid with know porous areas; it’s also smooth and impervious to water.

My first question about this product: VOCs, give me data on that, please

First, we will clear up the brand name issue: The board was marketed as Neemaboard, however, it’s now Cowdroy. It could also be sold under other names, if you know of more brands or places who sell products like this, please drop a comment down below. It will be most helpful for those of us who must think outside the square bubble for health issues.

MSDS for Cowdroy Board

My readers know I get excited when businesses are transparent and just hand over MSDS and other information such as:

COWDROY POLYMER BOARDS

SAFETY DATA …………………………………………………………………………..15th Jan 2015

The Wetline and Signline board supplied by H.M. Cowdroy , are a foamed PVC extruded board. Wetline and Signline do not contain any hazardous chemicals and as such are not scheduled under the G.H.S ( Global Harmonized System of Classification and labelling of Chemicals )

As a guidance to composition and safety when working with these board, we issue the following synopsis on safety data information, supplied to us by the manufacturer.

Product

Foamed PVC board, available in the Australian market under the brand names WETLINE and SIGNLINE.

Composition

Poly Vinyl Chloride ( P.V.C) with a Calcium Zinc based stabiliser .

NO Lead or Organo- Tin additives are used in the manufacture of this product.

Hazard Information

Wetline and Signline , are non –harmful in the solid state .

Working with these products

Normal safety equipment, Goggles, Gloves , and Dust masks should be worn when cutting or machining this product .

For high speed cutting or machining, extraction and ventilation is recommended to remove fumes and dust.

Inhalation

If dust particles are inhaled, move to an area free of dust, preferably in the open air

Seek medical advice if discomfort persists.

Ingestion

Rinse mouth to remove particles, and drink water as required.

Contact with eyes

Contact lenses ( If worn) should be removed , flush eyes with clean fresh water , holding eye lids apart , until all dust and discomfort is removed .

Seek medical advice if discomfort or irritation persists.

Contact with Skin

If irritation to skin occurs, remove contaminated clothing , wash skin with soap and water ,and dry ,

Seek medical advice if discomfort or irritation persists.

Disposal of product

Do not incinerate, check with Local Authority guidelines relating to disposal of waste.

Fire Fighting Measures

In the event of fire, instruct personnel to evacuate the area, and inform Fire Fighters that the board comprises of P.V.C compounds and Calcium Zinc based stabilisers .

If fire extinguishers are used, Water, Foam, or Dry Powder are suitable.

How to Know if This is the Right Product for Your Allergy-Free Kitchen

Personally, when I asked my treating Allergist and Immunologist, who said, “It should be fine.”, I trusted that because I’ve been treated by this doctor for over a decade.

I also tested the large piece, given to us by Rod Bird at Your Custom Kitchens, who I found on Houzz, via just breathing near it. Later I put in out in the sun, then held it up to my face. I don’t recommend others do this; it’s just something I felt safe doing.

Some people practice Kinesiology; or go and see one themselves to find out if a product or chemical is suitable. I, however, will always trust my own bodily physical symptoms over what any therapist or doctor says. But just know, especially if you are skeptical of Kinesiology, this is the only way some people can test products because they are that exquisitely sensitive to so many substances, that they have no choice; so you need to just stand back and respect that method if someone tells you about it! (Also note, you can learn to do this yourself, I hear on the GE-free, organic grapevine!

If in doubt, trust your own instincts. If in doubt of your medical practitioner, get a second opinion or even a third!

More about ‘Your Custom Cabinets’:

Your Custom Cabinets is owned and operated by Rod Bird with over 30 years experience in the industry. We design, create and install Kitchen, Bathroom, Laundry and Living spaces cabinets shaped to suit your lifestyle.

Services Provided

Your Custom Cabinets can provide everything from design conception through to hassle-free installation of cabinets crafted to meet your individual requirements. We can also fully co-ordinate all trades people needed for your project.

Areas Served

Geelong, Bellarine Peninsula, Surf Coast, Ballarat, Colac and Melbourne.

Mobile: 0418 526 990

Email: rod@yourcustomcabinets.com.au

Business Hours

Monday – Friday

7.30am – 4.00pm

After hours by appointment. Or you can fill in their contact form, here

Building Biologist Recommendations for Outgassing Our New Kitchen

Whether we choose Ecological Board or Cordory, uPVC board, for the cabinet frame, or I find another product) we have planned an outgassing process (used over in the states; now adapted for summer Australian climate. (My caring vegan man, Dan, has developed this procedure over the last decade. The plan: bake the house when it’s new, sure, but renowned Building Biologist, Raphael Siket, Director of Ecolibria here in Torquay on the surf coast of Victoria, Australia, Victoria, has suggested we order the kitchen as soon as possible; then, laying the pieces out on specially placed shelves to get the outgassing treatment right before installation.

Ah, but what about when the kitchen heats up?

This was a question put to me on one of the local forums here in Australia where we discuss all things relating to living with allergies, food intolerances, mould and medical conditions relating to chemical sensitivities. Hopefully, when our kitchen heats up this won’t be an issue because we’ve already sped up the process using this exact procedure. If it is, I have to stay upstairs with stairwell door closed until it’s ready; however, this is the plan:

  1. Order the kitchen panels weeks, months even, before installing them;

  2. Place them inside the house where there is good air-flow;

  3. Set up some shelving against the wall in the kitchen area (of course the space is empty so there’s lots of room)

  4. Have fans running, pointed in the direction of the temporary shelving;

  5. Place the pieces of kitchen boards separately on the temporary shelving;

  6. 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.);

  7. Make sure there is plenty of airflow between the boards, which are holding the panels to help them outgass their ‘newness’;

  8. At a temperature of 30-40 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;

  9. 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).

More

Book about plastics, chemicals and their ability to build up within humans and animals: Slow Death by Rubber Duck

More on testing via Kinesiology: Australian Kinesiology Association

My Chemical Free House: A Non-toxic Kitchen

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

Michellina Van Loder is a Professional Writer, Journalist and Blogger. This is where she shares her tales about trail blazing her way out of the Labyrinth of Chemical Sensitivities and Mould. This is also where you will find the latest Research on related topics.

How to Begin Building a House… with Ganesha

We bought our block, out on the Surf Coast of Victoria, Australia, back in 2011. In 2012 we engaged the services of EcoDesigner and Draftsperson, Quin Wyatt, hoping he could help us create an allergy-free, eco-friendly home made from non-toxic, low VOC materials: a safe home capable of protecting my immune system from mould spores; a home designed with passive heating and cooling in mind; a home that’s mindful of climate change and our precious planet.

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From 2012 up until this present day, we’ve been testing materials: glues, grouts, paints, silicones, waterproofing materials, wood, cement sheeting, plaster, magnesium board—even tiles. In August 2014 we finished the design. I began the mammoth task of organising quotes and tradespeople; however, after completing this task, we ran into some foreseeable financial hiccups and have had to return to Quin Wyatt asking him to make our house more affordable: we resized our footprint. When we first designed the house, we had another family member to provide for. Now that we are empty nesters, it makes even more sense to downsize. And it will cut costs:

(Before we go any further, here’s our running joke on this situation: my partner, Dan, and I took so long designing, planning and testing materials for this house that we grew older, therefore, as empty nesters, we’ve had to downsize.)

Costs: Just a hardwood house frame—in comparison to the traditionally used terpene-emitting pine frame—costs double that of an ordinary house frame. Include all the double-glazed, thermally-broken windows, and the price has tripled in comparison to ordinary windows. But without these two factors (there are a many others too, but these are the $bangers!), the house won’t be safe for me to live in. Like most chemically sensitive people I desperately need a safe house that won’t impact on my health. My main issues are moulds (outdoor and indoor), solvents, petrochemicals, wood-smoke (PM2.5 particles, particularly). I’ve also had to organize fragrance-free and chemical-free workpeople. It’s been a buzz! And I’ve been diligently taking notes so I can share them all here, at The Labyrinth ~ and finding my way out, with you.

I’ll give you a run-down of the completed plan as soon as I can; otherwise, if I do this now, this post will be my usual 2000 word essay! [For now: think tiles, magnesium board, brick, colourbond, rainwater tanks, balconies and sea air. A vegetable garden set in the front yard—with a duck lurking in amongst the broccoli. Rabbits running free. Two boxers laying out in the sun with me: Freedom: an allergy-free eco-friendly home]

The good news: just like the draftsperson we found, we’ve managed to find some compassionate and understanding tradespeople who’ve agreed to do what absolutely has to happen for this house to ever be a safe, health-tolerable place for me to live.

(When I meditate each morning, gratitude flows from me like the flush of pink petals from a lotus flower in full bloom.)

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And, get this: we’ve rented a composting toilet and placed it on our block so the workers (and Dan and I) can use it. No obnoxious chemical fragrance fumes! (More on this in another post. You will love this!)

And luckily, I’ve just experienced a blissful summer and autumn where my health improved enough for me to have actual consecutive days where I was well. (This has not happened since 2011.) Every morning I exercised, then spent the day on the phone organising every detail I could think of; nights were on the computer, compiling notes for my book, the soon-to-be-completed book, Freedom: an allergy-free, eco-friendly home. Thankfully, during this time, most products were already tested for safety—ergo, not all, though (We are stuck at the waterproofing (balcony and bathroom) stage!)

Unluckily, due to moulds and bloody wood-smoke, since winter began—and now the Solstice has passed, which means we’re half way through—I’ve had chronic illness as my companion once again. At least this year, I can deal with it. Some days I even accept it: Yoga, meditation, a supportive partner, energy from a plant-based diet, my latest treatment: the NSP Protocol, my dog, dwarf rabbits, my internet friends, and the faith in building a safe home are getting me through.

At times though, it’s not been easy: hesitation, trepidation, apprehension: a three-headed beast has eaten me alive.

Since I’ve had these well-documented mould symptoms: upper-respiratory inflammation (dry eyes, sinus pain, facial pain, sore throat), fatigue, vagueness, headaches, depression and sadness that mimic actual depression and sadness—all dispelling once the chemical exposure and the mandatory recovery period have passed—not only am I too physically and mentally exhausted to continue in the bull-at-a-gate manner I thrive on, but my confidence, my self-advocacy—swallowed by the inability to follow even my own internal conversations, let alone ones with carpenters/plumbers/manufacturers on the phone—have deserted me. Leaving me alone, plugged into a light socket, buzzing with paralysing fear, emanating through me as I lay in my bed. Unlike the previous times I’ve lost my cognitive abilities (cognitive symptoms started in 2012) I’ve learnt to accept the capabilities of my own brain and memory, especially over the last few weeks; instead of fighting it, I press pause, take the phone off the hook, put a movie on.

It’s okay, this time. I’ve been here before. It, too, shall pass…

I’m lucky, I’m in this build with, and only because of my partner, Dan; and even though, because I’m the chemically sensitive one, I want, need! to be in control of all the materials (for testing and research purposes) and speaking to tradespeople, putting the particulars into writing (for legal reasons), yet, I’ve relinquished this miracle work over to him. He’s actually more assertive than me. If you can imagine that [just add hyper-masculinity and swear words]! I have to trust in his capability. (Of course, I’m still doing the testing; he’s just organising the products and samples for now.)

Here’s how to build a safe home:

Have Faith…

I admire people who believe in God. Any God. The closest thing I have to God is meditation and exercise; and my Dog, which we all know is God spelt backwards. Yoga has been my thing lately. Even my dog has got some type of pose going on:

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Enter Ganesha:

This is the brass statue we picked up while searching for this exact statue. We wanted an actual large stone statue for the garden but only found this: still, a statue for the garden. To be buried there, actually.

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In the book, 99 Thoughts on Ganesha—Stories, Symbols and Rituals of India’s beloved elephant-headed deity, the author, Devdutt Pattanaik, describes Ganesha as an organic god, one who has transformed throughout time, space history and geography. Pattanaik reminds us:

“Of all the gods in the Hindu pantheon, he alone allows his form to be re-shaped and re-imagined and recreated as devotees will it. Thus, he reminds us constantly that:

Within infinite myths lies the eternal truth Who sees it all?
Varuna has but a thousand eyes Indra, a hundred, You and I, only two

Pattanaik explains how Ganesha takes the form of the self-created Supreme Being, also known as God, declaring that “whenever social order (dharma) is threatened, he descends to set things right. He offers his devotees three paths to reach him: the path of intellectual introspection (gyan yoga), the path of passionate devotion (bhakti yoga), and the path of detached action (karma yoga).”

During the 7th century CE, after some dudes who just happened to be Tibetan kings married some Buddhist princesses from China and Nepal, Buddhism spread to Tibet. This form is known as Mahayana Buddhism, in which, Ganesha is also known as Vinayaka.

Ganesha of Tibet has two forms: when in the benevolent form, he is the remover of obstacles; in the malevolent form, he is the instigator of obstacles.

Two weeks ago, during a weekend when I was ill, we drove the five minutes it takes to get to our block and held a ceremony: we buried a brass statue of Ganesha, asking for his help to remove any obstacles that may be placed in our way.

I feel better now…

Do you have any beliefs, rituals or deities that get you through the tough times? If so, please share…

Oh, and if you know of a low VOC, waterproofer for balconies (that are to be tiled) and for placing under tiles in the bathroom, please let us know. It has to be inert once dry (it’s the chemicals that outgass, not the actual smell, that’s the problem.) and it must be non-toxic to someone sensitive to chemicals, please.

Michellina Van Loder is a Professional Writer, Journalist and Blogger. This is where she shares her tales about trail blazing her way out of the Labyrinth of Chemical Sensitivities and Mould. This is also where you will find the latest Research on related topics.

Information, products and views presented by guest bloggers @The Labyrinth are not necessarily the same as those held by this blog's author, Michellina van Loder. Reviews are my own personal opinions (unless stated otherwise); and satire is used throughout personal posts. Any health topics discussed are not to be taken as medical advice. Seek out medical attention if needed and do your own research; however, you're welcome to use mine as a start.
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