By Sarah Stacey

Irish Daily Mail - YOU - - IN THIS ISSUE - by Sarah Stacey

IN 2004 in­te­rior de­signer Ed­ward Bul­mer was asked to plan the dec­o­ra­tion of a fam­ily house. One child in the fam­ily had se­vere eczema so the mother asked Ed­ward to use nat­u­ral paints free of com­monly used synthetic chem­i­cals as she had heard that some might ag­gra­vate eczema, asthma and rhini­tis. Ed­ward set about cre­at­ing paints us­ing nat­u­ral non­toxic ma­te­ri­als in­clud­ing earth and min­eral pig­ments, lin­seed oil, beeswax and milk ca­sein.

The link be­tween paint and eczema and other al­ler­gies was con­firmed in 2010 when a land­mark study from Har­vard and Swe­den’s Karl­stad Univer­sity showed that young chil­dren whose bed­rooms had high con­cen­tra­tions of fumes emit­ted from com­mon house­hold wa­ter-based paints and clean­ers ap­peared to have increased risks of asthma, rhini­tis, eczema and mul­ti­ple al­ler­gic dis­eases.

Re­searchers con­cluded that al­though chem­i­cals called propy­lene gly­col and gly­col ethers (PGEs), used mainly as sol­vents, are widely con­sid­ered safe, ‘they are sig­nif­i­cantly as­so­ci­ated’ with a higher risk of al­ler­gic symp­toms ‘and raise con­cerns for the vul­ner­a­bil­ity of in­fants and chil­dren’.

PGEs be­long to a group of chem­i­cals called volatile or­ganic com­pounds (VOCs), which have been in­tro­duced into con­sumer prod­ucts in the past 50 years. As paint dries, VOCs are emit­ted as gases, a process known as ‘off-gassing’, which can per­sist for months or longer.

The study com­pared 198 chil­dren with asthma and al­ler­gies to 202 healthy chil­dren over a five-month pe­riod. Air sam­ples were col­lected from their bed­rooms and tested for VOCs. Chil­dren whose rooms had the high­est con­cen­tra­tion of PGEs had a sig­nif­i­cantly higher risk of eczema, asthma and rhini­tis. Other synthetic chem­i­cals used in paint have been strongly linked to an increased risk of child­hood leukaemia and also to lung cancer in paint work­ers.

Nowa­days, there is a le­gal re­quire­ment for com­pa­nies to la­bel all dec­o­ra­tive prod­ucts with their VOC con­tent. How­ever it is mainly for reg­u­la­tory pur­poses and will not nec­es­sar­ily be ob­vi­ous to con­sumers. Af­ter years of re­search, Ed­ward launched his own truly nat­u­ral paint com­pany (ed­ward bul­mer­paint.com) in 2012. Unlike most other paint brands, ev­ery in­gre­di­ent is listed, al­though this is not a reg­u­la­tory re­quire­ment. While no paint is to­tally VOC-free, the VOC rat­ing for Ed­ward Bul­mer Emul­sion is less than 0.2 per cent, which is counted as zero.


Con­tin­u­ing the theme of chem­i­cals I pre­fer not to have in my house, I am a huge fan of cook­ing with GreenPans (visit green­pan.com). The USP of GreenPans is its ceramic, non­stick coat­ing, which doesn’t blis­ter or peel and can re­sist tem­per­a­tures of up to 450C. Many tra­di­tional non­stick pans are coated in PTFE (poly­te­traflu­oro-eth­yl­ene, or Te­flon), which is only heatre­sis­tant to 260C. Af­ter that point, the PTFE can re­lease fumes that may be harm­ful to hu­mans.

Above: in­te­rior de­signer and non­toxic paint cre­ator Ed­ward Bul­mer

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