My Healthy Non Toxic Kitchen Renovation

How I finally got my healthy non toxic kitchen renovation!

Many of you have seen my kitchen from me doing my cooking videos and from The Eat Real Food Online Health Summit that I ran in 2015 and 2016. I interviewed all my guests via online video chat from my working space off my kitchen and filmed all the cooking demos in my kitchen, but did you know that my kitchen is 50 years old and some of the cupboards and drawers don’t open?

I’ve always wanted a new healthy non toxic kitchen, but when you have chemical sensitivities like I do, it can be tricky to plan a healthy kitchen reno without going over budget or needing to be away from my home for months at a time while the cupboards off gas.

Last year my husband and I decided it was time for a new kitchen and so we set out to find a contractor and cabinet maker who were well versed in environmentally, non toxic, healthy options. We wanted cupboards that wouldn’t off gas formaldehyde, because yes, most new kitchens off gas formaldehyde along with other chemicals into your indoor air.

Volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) are organic chemicals that have a high vapour pressure at ordinary room temperature. They include both human made and naturally occurring chemical compounds. VOC’s are consistently higher indoors (up to ten times higher) than outdoors. Organic chemicals are widely used as ingredients in household products. Paints, varnishes, cleaners, disinfectants, glues, fuels, dry cleaning solvents, nail polish, pesticides, aerosol sprays, fragrances, wood preservatives are some products that contain these chemicals. Formaldehyde is one of the most common VOC’s. It is colourless and is used in building materials, plywood, particleboard, and glues. Formaldehyde can be found in drapes, mattresses, fabrics and foam insulation. So you can see how your indoor air quality can end up being very toxic. Formaldehyde becomes a gas at normal room temperatures and can off gas out of products for years. Formaldehyde is a cancer-causing chemical. However, exposure to formaldehyde and other VOC’s can produce many health issues; headaches, itchy and/or burning eyes, asthma, insomnia, mental confusion, nose bleeds, rashes, joint pain, fatigue, and nausea.

I am always so astonished to hear when pregnant mothers say they are going to paint the babies room. Along with all the new furniture, crib and paint, that room is a host of chemicals being released into the air, all while a newborn sleeps in it’s crib. I think so many people aren’t aware that cribs, mattresses, carpets and paint all contain chemicals that can affect our health. Today people are becoming more aware of their indoor air quality and there are many non toxic options now available. Paint companies like Benjamin Moore and Color Your World are offering low and no VOC paints.

Things that help reduce poor indoor air quality

  • Allow fresh clean air into your home often
  • Certain types of plants that clean the air
  • Opting for non-toxic materials, cleaners and paints
  • Purchase only solid wood furniture no pressed woods
  • Increase ventilation during painting or renovations

Knowing our options for our healthy non toxic kitchen renovation was first on our list. First, we spoke with The Living Rooms experts. They’re located in Kingston, Ontario and are a wealth of information when it comes to healthy non toxic items. Be it paint, flooring, counter tops, cleaners or building materials they are our go to experts. When speaking with them they suggested we contact a local cabinet maker who was familiar with building kitchens for people with environmental sensitivities. We had spoken to a few kitchen contractors in Ottawa, and one of them was familiar with healthy non toxic building materials but the others had no idea about how to build kitchen cabinets and doors that would not off gas. IKEA and even the big brand name kitchen renovating companies were not an option for us as all their products contained chemicals that would affect my health.

When we first met with Tim Soper and John Weima from TJWoodworking I knew we had found our guys. They were so open and knowledgeable about the products I needed to have for a healthy non toxic kitchen renovation. We began searching for formaldehyde free building materials and came across formaldehyde free plywood from Home Depot and a company called NU Green that offered veneer core plywood that was free of formaldehyde. We opted to use the NU Green products as Tim and John felt it was a better option for the boxes and cabinets. We then found a company called Thermovision which manufactured cabinet doors that were also free of formaldehyde and passed the Phase 2- CARB requirements. CARB Phase 1 and Phase 2 are a part of California’s Composite Wood Products Regulations which took effect in 2009. These regulations have to do with reducing formaldehyde emissions from composite wood products, hardwood, plywood, particleboard and medium density fiberboard (MDF). Because I am so sensitive to chemicals I needed cabinets and doors that would not emit any chemicals other wise we would have to seal all the doors and edges with a healthy, non toxic sealer which of course would increase the cost of our kitchen renovation.

How to check if a product is CARB Phase 2 Compliant?

Any product made with hardwood plywood, particleboard or medium density fiberboard must be labeled with appropriate labeling. To check if a composite wood product is compliant for formaldehyde Phase 2, look for a label that includes the fabricator’s name, date the good was produced, and language that indicates the product complies with CARB Phase 1 or CARB Phase 2 emission limit. These labels will often include “California 93120 Compliant for Formaldehyde” or “California Phase 2 Compliant.”

Why is CARB Phase 2 Compliance important?

This regulation is important because it ensures the air we breathe is healthy and free from carcinogens that can harm us. As of 2011, formaldehyde was added to the federal government’s carcinogen list due to its health effects – often nose and throat irritation, burning eyes, wheezing or difficulty breathing, headaches, and nausea. Formaldehyde is a colorless gas and is emitted from a variety of sources – fireplaces, tobacco smoke, and wood burning stoves, to name a few. In the flooring industry, it’s often used to make products including resins that are used as adhesives for composite wood products. The CWP regulation ensures formaldehyde emissions do not exceed the limit set.

Next we had to figure out what type of counter tops we would install. Our options were granite, quartz, marble, soapstone, paperstone, concrete, recycled glass, cork, laminate, stainless steel, or wood. We of course wanted something natural, not man made so that narrowed down our options. My favourite has always been soapstone and as we started our research I soon learned that it was the best option for us.  Soapstone and granite are comparable in price, so ultimately it’s what you want on your counter tops and for me I didn’t want any counter top that was going to emit radon or other chemicals in the air.

Soapstone Pros:

  • Durabillity
  • Workability
  • Density
  • Healthy choice
  • Environmentally friendly
  • All natural
  • Great return on investment
  • Low maintenance
  • Natural antibacterial

So we got to work getting quotes and I looked to see where I could stay during the renovations. It was like the healthy non toxic kitchen renovation gods were smiling down on us as my girlfriend was set to travel and was thrilled I could house sit. We asked Tim and John to make a cabinet and order us a cabinet door so that I could have then in my home to make sure that I did not react to any of the materials. To my astonishment I did not react and so we set the plan in motion for our kitchen renovation. Cabinets were built and doors were ordered. Once the kitchen cupboards were made we did allow them a couple months to off gas to be on the safe side. In February my husband tore out our old kitchen and laid down formaldehyde free Nadurra wood bamboo floors. Everything ran like clock work, well not really, we did have some hiccups, but who doesn’t when it comes to renovations. Our painter used Safe Coat paint to paint the walls as paints contain VOC’s and so it’s important to check around and find paints that are good quality and don’t contain VOC’s.

I am now back home and we are thoroughly enjoying our new healthy non toxic kitchen. With a little planning you to can have a healthy non toxic kitchen renovation. Feel free to email me if you have questions about healthy non toxic building materials, I am always happy to share what I have learned with others.





About the Author

Written by: Shirley Plant
Shirley Plant is a nutritionist and the author of Finally… Food I Can Eat, a dietary guide and cookbook for people with food allergies, and those looking for healthy, tasty recipes. Shirley offers dietary counselling and menu planning through Delicious Alternatives.

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