In any home, office, or other indoor environment, we’re constantly exposed to chemicals and other pollutants, whether that be volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from paints and coatings, formaldehyde from furniture and wood products, or chemical and artificial scents from shampoos, colognes, perfumes, and deodorants.  With poor ventilation and air circulation, these contaminants can build up over time, potentially resulting in health issues such as eye, nose, or throat irritation, headaches and loss of concentration, dizziness, and nausea.

While there are preventative measures, such as using low-VOC and low-formaldehyde products and increasing the amount of fresh air in the space, they don’t typically eliminate the problem.  Low-VOC products still emit VOCs.  Low-formaldehyde products still emit formaldehyde.  And ventilating with fresh air all year round can be costly, especially during the colder months.

This is where air purifying products come in.

New to the sustainability marketplace, these products claim to actively purify the air using a variety of means, ranging from passive absorption to photoreaction (reaction to light).  In many cases, these products break down VOCs, formaldehyde, and other contaminants into inert compounds.  This represents a potentially important breakthrough in improving indoor air quality.

Certainteed AirRenew
Certainteed’s AirRenew drywall claims to absorb harmful pollutants in the air and convert them into inert compounds, which are then stored in the drywall itself.

Unlike other products that are low- or non-emitting, which ‘contribute less’ to poor indoor air quality, these purifying products actively improve air quality by neutralizing harmful components in the air regardless of their source.  Additionally, these products can easily be incorporated into any renovation project, whether that be changing the colour of your bedroom or adding that extra bathroom you’ve always wanted.

Airlite Paint
Airlite claims to convert airborne contaminants into inert compounds using a photoreaction when exposed to light.

Before you race down to the local hardware store, however, there are a couple of suggestions to keep in mind.

Read the installation or application instructions carefully; there may be complimentary products that you may need to increase effectiveness.  Covering a VOC-absorbing sheet of drywall with VOC-heavy paint, for example, may be counter-productive.

Ask a lot of questions, do your research, and come to your own conclusions.  There’s a lot of green fluff out there, so make sure this isn’t the same old product with different packaging.

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.  Explore these new products, but use them as part of a larger strategy to improve indoor air quality.  Remember that increasing ventilation and air circulation, cleaning regularly with low-impact products, and buying a plant or two are also reliable strategies to create a healthier indoor environment!