HEAL TH NOTES
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.
FROM PAINT TO PANS
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