Asthma Council highlights allergy-friendly building & fitout products

by Dave Bullard
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The health implications of building and renovating to both professionals and DIYers are being highlighted by the National Asthma Council Australia though its new Sensitive Choice program.

The program recognises products and services that may be a better choice for people with asthma and allergies – such as carpets and underlays that will resist rot and microbial growth, and paints that don’t contain Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and glycol ethers.

The council says more than seven million Australians have allergies, including asthma, hay fever, allergic conjunctivitis and eczema, which have triggers such as dust mites, pollen, mould, pets and cold weather.

“It is recognised that avoiding triggers effectively reduces the impact of allergy conditions,” says National Asthma Council Partnerships Manager Adam Trumble, “and we recommend that people do what they can to reduce exposure to potential causes. In building and renovation, product selection can make a significant difference to people’s health as well as the environment. The Council’s Sensitive Choice program therefore recommends products and services that consider both of these important factors.”

The council says some issues relevant to asthma and allergy and homes are:

  • Relative humidity below around 55 per cent will discourage the growth of mould (mould spores are an allergen and mould is an important element in the dust mite cycle)
  • Excessively dry air should also be avoided, as viruses prefer cool, dry air
  • Cold temperatures can cause asthma symptoms – insulation and heating can assist
  • Wood fires and unflued gas heaters should be avoided
  • Ventilation can be a cheap and effective method of reducing humidity and mould growth
  • Built-in heat-recovery ventilation or air-conditioning systems should have effective filtration
  • Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and glycol ethers should be avoided where possible. Many products, such as MDF and paint, have low or no VOC options
  • The wrong carpet may harbour allergens (in particular mould and dust mites), but there are carpets and underlays that will resist rot and microbial growth
  • Gardens can be the source of pollen allergens – most of the problems are caused by imported species.

There are over 300 approved products on the Sensitive Choice register. Some examples are:

  • Brease carpet (Beaulieu of Australia) – Solution dyed nylon treated with an anti-microbial. Resists rot, mould and dust mites
  • Bradford Insulation & Edmonds Ventilation (CSR Building Products) – Non allergenic
  • Residential Split System Air Conditioners and Air Purifiers (Daikin Australia) – Filtered
  • Comfort Choice underlay (Dunlop Flooring) – Treated with an anti-microbial. Resists rot, mould and dust mites
  • Heat Recovery Ventilation (HRV) system – Filtered
  • MAFI timber floor laminates and tiles (Milling Enterprises) – Low chemical
  • MDF Board and Worktops (Nikpol) – low formaldehyde
  • Zerotox linseed oil paints with natural pigments (Olde World Paints) – no VOCs
  • Taubmans low VOC and anti-microbial paints (PPG Industries Australia)

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