During spring break my daughter’s preschool refinished their wood floors. As excited as she was to see her teachers and friends on Monday after the break, our visit resulted in a big fat round trip right back to my house. In two decades of refinishing floors, I don’t believe I’ve ever smelled a more noxious interior. There was no way I was leaving those tiny lungs to fend for themselves.
I immediately turned to the smartest guru I know for healthy green interiors, Mary Cordaro. In addition to being a certified Bau Biologist, she deeply cares about the effects of built environment toxins on infants and children. Mary, of course, had plenty of answers for me and generously shared her time and research.
The brain of Larry Gust , another green building expert, was also picked. Between Mary and Larry I had enough info to go back to the preschool and discuss options. Unfortunately there weren’t many because the product used was within the legal limits (unbelievably) for VOC levels in a preschool. The owners felt badly that they didn’t know more before they finished the floors and said they would research more for future renovations.
Moral of the story: GO OUTSIDE OFTEN and get fresh air for as much time as you can EVERYDAY. The design and maintenance of places where we work, pray, shop and study are mostly out of our control and these interiors are loaded with carcinogens (cancer causing chemicals). Most Americans are forced to work in very unhealthy environments for 40 plus hours each week, year in, year out. And many live in homes that contain materials that are toxic. It’s just not good for our bodies or souls. Human beings are meant to be outdoors.
During the week of research it took to determine how long my daughter would need to stay away from school while the VOCs dissipated, I was invited to Niche’s party for Kettal thrown by LUXE Magazine. Ironically Christopher Kennedy, the designer on LUXE’s current cover, was speaking about his concept of bringing the Inside …Outside due to the toxicity of most interiors. Unlike architects like Phillip Johnson (Glass House) and Frank Lloyd Wright (Falling Water), who strived to bring nature into our interiors, brilliant designer Christopher Kennedy proposed we do the exact opposite and pay special attention to our exterior rooms.
Kettal’s chic outdoor furniture
He echoed my sentiments about human beings not really being meant to live in boxes with manufactured air and toxic paint. He talked about the interior air being much worse than outside air and the positive effects that sunshine and fresh air has on us. He even reminded the designers in the crowd to include outdoor spaces in their interior budgets so clients wouldn’t be tapped out at the end of their projects and miss designing quite possibly the most important spaces- the outdoor spaces.
(Falling Water and Phillip Johnson’s Glass House, beautiful, yes, but not necessarily designed for outdoor living.)
Thankfully my daughter’s preschool has a great playground that the children use for many hours during each day. And… those floors have almost finished off-gassing.