An Allergy-Free, Eco-Friendly Kitchen—By The Allergista: What are Your Countertops Hiding?

Hi! I’m The Allergista!

The Allergist, aka, Jennifer from the blog, The Allergista

The Allergist, aka, Jennifer

In 2010, all of a sudden I was dealing with horrible oozing rashes on my legs and arms. It seemed to keep spreading… and spreading. Medications helped for a day or two and then I’d slide even further downhill. I ended up being diagnosed with a list of allergies (I have 24) and eczema. As opposed to taking harsh oral steroids (Prednisone) for the rest of my life, which the doctors recommended, I decided to avoid my allergens instead. It’s been QUITE the journey. Michellina has so kindly allowed me to talk to you guys because she is AWESOME like that. With her medical condition diagnosed as Inhalant Allergies… she knows what it’s like having to avoid an annoying amount of things. It’s nice to have other people who “get it” because most people don’t understand how much I had to change my lifestyle in order to deal with these issues!

So let’s get on with it, shall we? What I want to share with you today has to do with laminate countertops. Aside from being a poor imposter for wood, I never thought anything bad about them until I discovered what was in them. It all goes back to my eczema… I kept getting a really intense little rash on the underside of my right wrist. This made me think about what my wrist was touching all day and I realized that EXACT SPOT was touching the counter my work computer sat on. Thinking it may be due to cleaning products used on the counter, I started cleaning it with just water… but it didn’t make a difference. My next solution was to tape pieces of laserjet paper to the counter, preventing my wrist from actually touching it. This did the trick! And it proved to me that the actual countertops were what was bothering me…. but why?

I started doing some digging online. I wanted to know what laminate countertops were made of and how they were made… hoping this information would shed some light on what was really going on. As I dug deeper and deeper, it all made sense: cheap laminate countertops are often made with polyester resin. My skin HATES polyester! Any time polyester sits on my skin for more than 5 minutes, my eczema flares up into a mess of itchy red bumps. Not only did I learn that polyester is used in laminate counter tops, but polyester resin is created by propylene glycol reacting with a dibasic or polybasic acid. PG is another one of my allergens… veeeeery interesting! I explained my findings to my dermatologist and she wrote a doctor’s note saying that in order for me to be in a healthy environment, I need to be protected from laminate countertops.

These days, my desk at work is covered in glass which I LOVE. Not having to worry about if I’m touching my desk or having to DIY my way around it is pretty awesome.

Polyester resin doesn’t stop at counter tops, though. Here are some other places you’ll find it:

  • bathtubs
  • boats
  • in construction as an adhesive
  • fiberglass
  • luggage: as adhesive holding on the metal hardware
  • coats
  • outdoor furniture
  • packaging: bonding the plastic and cardboard together in blister packaging
  • underground utility boxes
  • sheet moulding compound
  • automotive panels
  • carbon fiber
  • kevlar

I really wish that there were strict laws around labelling the content of EVERYTHING… not just food. And actually, the laws around ingredient labels on food aren’t that great. I talk more about that here. In the last handful of years, this is just one of the sneaky ways my allergens were messing with me and my eczema. I’ve learned a LOT. In an effort to help you guys out, I sat down and thought of all the different ways my health has been secretly disrupted. I came up with nine! I organized them all into a nice little 2-page PDF which you can download by clicking the glittery button below:

Cheers to taking control and leading a healthier life!

 

XOXO,

Jennifer

 

Click Button to visit The Allergista: 9 things that could secretly be disrupting your health

Click Button to visit The Allergista and download: 9 things that could secretly be disrupting your health

Sources:

MSDS for Propylene Glycol (Polyester): http://msdssearch.dow.com/PublishedLiteratureDOWCOM/dh_006e/0901b8038006e13c.pdf?filepath=propyleneglycol/pdfs/noreg/117-01785.pdf&fromPage=GetDoc

Lyondell: http://www.lyondellbasell.com/techlit/techlit/2412.pdf

Shell ~ propylene product derivatives: http://www.shell.com/chemicals/products-services/our-products/propylene-oxide-derivatives/propylene-glycols/product-overview.html

Polyester Resin: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polyester_resin

Us Composities ~ Polyesters: http://www.uscomposites.com/polyesters.html

Moulded Fibreglass and Polyester Resins: http://www.moldedfiberglass.com/materials/polyester-resins

eHow Facts on Polyester Resin: http://www.ehow.com/facts_5043005_can-polyester-resin-make.html

PubMed: Systemic contact dermatitis from propylene glycol

PubMed: Contact allergy from propylene glycol

The 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

Hi, I'm Jennifer, and I sometimes guestblog over here at the Labyrinth!
Back in 2010, I was diagnosed with a long list of allergies, eczema, lactose intolerance and vitamin D deficiency. It was a complete lifestyle change... and in the beginning, it was hard. Endless hours were spent doing research and the more I learned, the more my skin and health improved. I want to share that valuable information with all of you who are dealing with the same struggles! If you'd like to read more, visit my blog, The Allergista!

The Kitchen Series: An Allergy-Free, Eco-Friendly Kitchen

This is the first post in ‘An Allergy-Free, Eco-Friendly Kitchen’ series. And to save you reading it all at once, I’ve broken up this one long post into handy bit-sized readings for each element needed to create your very own ‘Allergy-Free, Eco-Friendly Kitchen’. Whether you have respiratory issues, chemical sensitivities, mould illness, asthma or any medical condition that is impacted on via air-quality, then these posts are for you.

kitchen-1085990_1280

It’s also come to my awareness since being diagnosed with Inhalant Allergies to various natural and chemical substances, 13 years ago, that there are many parents who want to create a safe haven where little Jane or Jovan can have a calm, joyful place free of allergens and the worry that goes along with avoiding those allergens in everyday life; like at school, it’s the same as not having any peanuts in the house if someone in the family has an allergy.. The same goes for parents of newborns, they want to give their new treasured bundle the absolute best start in life.

Nowhere is your home more of a haven than when you are free to live an allergen, chemical-irritant free life.

An Allergy-Free, Eco-Friendly Kitchen is about creating a worry-free hub where the family can come together to share meals in the most comfortable way possible: free of allergens and chemical irritants that inflame airways and play havoc with sufferers of inhalant allergies, chemical sensitivities, respiratory inflammation, Toxic Encephalopathy, Asthma, Occupational Asthma, Irritant-associated Vocal Cord Dysfunction, Reactive Airways Dysfunction Syndrome (RADS), Irritant-induced Asthma, Small Airways Disease and Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS): all conditions where indoor air-quality is paramount to comfort and good health.

It’s just a matter of choosing the right products suitable for your own situation. The only way to do this and be sure you’re making the right choice is to investigate and research until you find the right product(s). Personally, I like to run ideas past my treating doctor, an Allergist and Immunologist; but mostly, I decide on whether the product or material impacts on my breathing by testing it–I’ll delve more into how I do this, and share ideas on how others do it in another post coming up.).

Dan and I haven’t yet decided on the materials we are going ot use. However, my good internet friend and author, Kathryn Treat, has a left a trail via her book, Allergic to Life: my battle for courage, survival and hope, and our interviews: in Part II of ‘New Beginnings—No Turning Back’, she describes her kitchen being made of completely sealed Formica, which in the US is chipboard/particleboard completely (or at least in her case) sealed on all sides with laminate. The doors in her kitchen are oak, and her window frames vinyl clad.

In the dearly departed author’s words: “This is no cookie-cutter illness; we are all different.”

Oak Doors

I’ve already tested the oak doors, and decided that that’s what we are going to use.

A glue recommend by the Healthy House Institute in the US as it contains aliphatic resins, which dry hard and odourless:

(This is the glue I’m testing for use with some Oak Cabinetry doors! It has the aliphatic resin as recommended by The Healthy House Institute.)

Titebond® Supreme

This is a very fast setting adhesive of the titebond aliphatic resin range. It is Specifically formulated to provide short clamp time for oak and other ring-porous woods. It has excellent heat and solvent resistance and excellent durability for interior exposures. Excellent for Ash and Oak high volume production.

Sizes available: 19lt Pail & 208lt Drum

Visit GREENchoice Website

If we need to save money, which we probably do, we’ll be using glass doors with aluminium edging around them, which I will get to in two shakes of a lambs tale. Basically, our Butler’s pantry [read fruit and vegetable storage room] is going to be mostly glass doors. and shelving with mirror splashbacks so as to appear to give it more space.

Polyvor Aluminium and Glass Doors

Polyvor Aluminium and Glass Doors

Now, for the cabinets, so far we have two choices. Ecological Panels (made from recyclable non-toxic, sustainable & green building materials, or Neemaboard, hardened uPVC board, which is either also sold under the name Waterproof PVC Based Polymer Board from Cowdrey or it’s a different product. The gentleman at Cowdrey who gave me the MSDS said that Neemaboard is no longer called that. So I will just refer to it as Cowdrey PVC Board. It’s actually UPVC or the sample I have that says ‘Neemaboard” on the back (shown below) is different. There actually is a huge difference between PVC and UPVC. So I will sort this out when I do a post in this ‘An Allergy-Free, Eco-Friendly Kitchen’ series of posts, just on the cabinet materials available (maybe 5 posts away?).

(Our thermally-broken, double-glazed windows and frames, already ordered and paid for with Zenit Windows are uPVC (Known as PVCU overseas in countries like Europe), ours have come from Europe, so hopefully, the REACH stricter safety standards will protect my health from VOCs; I still can’t find any reputable information on the amount of VOCs released per square metre anywhere–so far. Except from over at the ATA forum. And from a VOC point, it’s not looking pretty. But from an Ecological standard, they are excellent going by reviews and the recommendation of our Eco Draftsperson, Quin Wyatt.)

Both cabinet products have their advantages. But I will say straight up that Ecological Board stacks up really well in price and suitability compared to the same product that contains formaldehyde in the glues, which hold ordinary particle board together.

Both products can be completely sealed with a 2Pak paint, which hardens just like powder coat, I am told by our kitchen guy.

(I wrote about ‘How to Seal Chipboard in the Kitchen’ way back in 2007 for AESSRA (The Allergy, Environmental, Sensitivity and Support Research Association), who then published it in their magazine, Sensitivity Matters. I can tell you now, the kitchen in the Build an Eco-Friendly, Allergy-Free House project will not be using foil for anything other than wrapping sandwiches! Well there is the Kingspan AirCell 3in1 Building wrap… but that’s the last time, I swear. If you have chemical sensitivities, please laugh along with me.)

Other elements that could make your kitchen allergy-free, keeping indoor air-quality at optimum levels:

  • The kitchen doors
  • The cabinets
  • The bench tops (I have a special guest post coming up from The Allergista about this very topic in regards to transdermal skin allergies! and what can be found in your benchtops)
  • Any coatings or paints used in the sealing or colouring of materials
  • Removal of humid air, eliminating the risk of moisture build up, which could lead to mould growth
  • The flooring

The next post is going to be on Ecological Board, the good, the great and the awesome. Stay tuned.

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

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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