Non-toxic materials

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TO SUMMARIZE, I'm building NON-TOXIC studio and bedroom furniture and I want to lay out my plans and get some direction from those with more experience. I'm pretty sick, have been for a while, I have chemical sensitivities, so the little bit of outgassing from plastics or various resins used in wood products is a problem for me. I have a small but good selection of tools, some experience, and well ventilated work space. I have supplied air and carbon filter masks so I'm not too worried about exposure during construction but only toxicity of the finished product in my home. Again, I'm sick and I have chemical sensitivities, so please don't tell me how I'm worried about nothing in my attempts to find lower toxicity building materials unless you're also living every day in pain and look like you should be framed behind a barbed wire fence at auschwitz. Outgassing/toxicity is my number one concern in these projects.
Here's the PICTURES OF WHAT I'VE DONE SO FAR: http://142.165.246.187/build /
I want to build STUDIO FURNITURE: - several desks - drawing table - easel - shelves - paint booth (sandblasting cabinet design)
THe paint booth "prototype" I built works better than I had hoped, it seems to make a perfect seal all around the glass and front plate, turbine air extraction up in the attic suspended from rope is fairly quiet, lots of full spectrum light, very happy with it except for the formaldehyde emmissions (MDF), so it's on it's way to the garage right now while I plan a version to replace it inside. Same with the drawing/light table, love it but I'm going to re-do it in pine... I was under the misconception that I could stop the formaldehyde emmissions with a lot of latex paint, which itself may outgas small levels of VOCs, lesson learned.
THe materials I want to use for all these items are CONSTRUCTION GRADE SPF LUMBER, GYPSUM WALLBOARD (DRYWALL), AND PVA GLUE. I'm looking at these materials for their non-toxicity and low cost, it'll require some different construction to rely on an SPF frame for strength, covered with drywall, everything sealed by spraying elmer's children's PVA glue to seal it. I don't care at all what it looks like, most of it will be splattered with paint, doodled on, used and abused, built to work and not to admire. I can't find some of the other non-toxic materials out there like pressed straw panels and to be honest I don't think they're worth the cost in this case. I'm wondering if I buy SPF lumber from Home Depot... is there anything in it besides wood? What will the wood release into the air? You can smell lumber so it must release something...? I've looked into cement board and reinforced gypsum boards but they're not available in my area right now because of hurricane-induced shortages. Still, if anyone could suggest a safe gypsum product more suited to shelves and desk surfaces than regular 1/2" drywall let me know, I don't know a whole lot about drywall. I am willing to live with a delicate board that needs lots of support if it's safe and cheap though. I'm also trying to find natural gypsum boards that aren't made with the flue gas desulpherization process, but all the manufacturers tout it as a good thing because it's environmentally friendly... as far as I can tell it's taking pollution out of the air and trapping it in materials to use in my home?!
I also want to build BEDROOM FURNITURE: - 2 pine armoires - pine bench, flip-open storage
The requirment for these projects is non-toxic too, but the difference is I want them to look good. I made the entertainment unit in the pictures from pine panels. What kind of glue do they use to join the wood together, should I be concerned at all? I'd like to use shellac to finish it, which I believe is as non-toxic as it gets, but I'm not sure about non-toxic stains and also non-toxic filler...?
Maybe the response from most to roll their eyes at the kooky tree-hugging health nut hippie moron, I tend to get that fairly often. I used to lay up fiberglass with no mask, wash my hands in laquer thinner and then go eat a steak and have a beer like a manly man too, but you change your thinking real quick when it all finally catches up to you. All I'm looking for is some opinions I guess, I'm in unexplored territory here and I've already screwed up and cost myself a lot of time by using MDF which is totally unnacceptable in my living space. I'm hoping for some direction... learn when someone tells me something rather than by doing it wrong and wasting more time. Thanks for reading.
SS
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On 8 Dec 2005 22:09:47 -0800, snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

No, you appear to be building stuff that's absolutely optimised for outgassing. Why are you even thinking about using MDF? If you want to _reduce_ this, work with hardwoods, glue with hide glue and finish with shellac.
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I realize my post was lengthy, but you should read it all before you respond.
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On 9 Dec 2005 08:08:04 -0800, snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

And you should do some basic research on the behaviours of the materials you're now looking at using before asking questions.
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Sounds to me like highly polished stainless steel would be the best option for materials. I don't know of any fiber based natural or man-made product that does not emit gasses at some time or another. Even high resin plastics release small traces of gas late in their product life. Have you ever noticed how plastics age and tend to yellow and dry out? I'm sure that the Finishing materials I use release gasses long after they are cured. Doesn't varnish, polyurethane, shellac, etc. dry to a porous finish as the gasses escape into the air? Wouldn't this porous finish allow gasses from the wood to escape? What about laquer finishes? It seems to me that after curing, laquer finshing takes a polish and waxing better than anything else. Does the wax emit enough gas to bother you? Laquered and polished oak and other hardwoods are very nice to look at and durable as anything.
Oh, and if you're going to get rid of that drawing table, I'll send you my address.
Tom in KY, probably not any help but wishing you luck.
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I'd love to use stainless actually, but the cost would be absolutely enormous and the time spent building it increased as well.
Lacquer products outgas for a while I believe.
Your mention of wax made me think of beeswax though... it should be very safe and a good sealer, maybe heating it with an oil would be a good way to go?
I've offered the table to someone else, and I need to keep the glass, but if they refuse and you really want to pay for shipping on such a large (5 feet) simple item feel free to email me.
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snipped-for-privacy@bellsouth.net wrote: : Sounds to me like highly polished stainless steel would be the best : option for materials. I don't know of any fiber based natural or : man-made product that does not emit gasses at some time or another. : Even high resin plastics release small traces of gas late in their : product life. Have you ever noticed how plastics age and tend to yellow : and dry out? I'm sure that the Finishing materials I use release gasses : long after they are cured. Doesn't varnish, polyurethane, shellac, etc. : dry to a porous finish as the gasses escape into the air?
Yes, although shellac rates tops for blocking water vapor (old FWW test) with respect to other finishes (only a very thick wax finish -- like 1/8") does better.
Whether this would extend to other gases, I dunno.
    -- Andy Barss
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Fri, Dec 9, 2005, 8:08am (EST-3) snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com responds to someone's post, but no way of telling whose, becase he doesn't say, with: I realize my post was lengthy, but you should read it all before you respond.
What makes you think that "whoever" didn't read it all? I read it all. You wanted opinions. My first thought was, why doesn't he ask the manufacturers of those products? My second hought was, why doesn't he ask the manufaturers of those products? So, my opinion is, that you should be asking the manufacturers those questions about their products. So don't complain about any answers that you get here. That's my opinion too.
JOAT A rolling stone gathers no moss...unless it's a hobby he does on the weekends.
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J T wrote:

Sorry I don't have access to my computer and I'm finding google groups pretty cludgy.

They pointed out how toxic my MDF projects were, I already stated I madea mistake and wasn't aware MDF outgasses and I couldn't effectively seal it. Since I already knew about the MDF issue they were either just trying to point out how stupid I am, or were actually trying to be helpful/informative and didn't read the whole post, I gave him the benifit of doubt and chose to believe he was a decent guy trying to be helpful, obviously I was wrong.

Good idea. I've been trying. First of all, I'm not sure what products I should be using, that's why I'm here. Second, it's pretty hard to get an answer on some stuff. For instance I've spent almost 3 hours trying to find out if my local drywall supplier can sell me wallboard that doesn't use fluegas desulpherization gypsum and recycled paper that may contain VOCs from inks, and I still have no idea.
Trying to find information on toxicity of building materials is not easy at all, if you think it is please tell me where you get your info because I'm having to do a hell of a lot of research to find a tiny bit of usually contradictory information.
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Just my humble opinion, go to a Sherwin Williams or your local hospital's maintenance department. They surely have experience with this sort of thing. I would ask them about materials used in isolation rooms and operating rooms.
Your local Lowe's or H.D. employees are there to sell you something. Half of the time they are not even qualified to do that.
Tom in KY, wondering if anyone else has had to deal with the same issue, and what they may have done?
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Fri, Dec 9, 2005, 11:39am (EST-3) snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com doth say: <snip> They pointed out how toxic my MDF projects were, I already stated I madea mistake and wasn't aware MDF outgasses <snip> and didn't read the whole post, <snip> Good idea. I've been trying. First of all, I'm not sure what products I should be using, that's why I'm here. Second, it's pretty hard to get an answer on some stuff. For instance I've spent almost 3 hours trying to find out if my local drywall supplier <snip> Trying to find information on toxicity of building materials is not easy at all, if you think it is please tell me where you get your info <snip>
I know for a fact that I said ask the "manufacturer", and you're talking about asking your "supplier". I'm sure whatever you're buying has a manufacturer's site. Probably the site has product MSDs, or whatever. They should also have a link to connect them. I doube a supplier would know, and if you're buying from Hopeless Depot, you'd be lucky to find anyone who would even know what you're talking about. However, your supplier should be able to tell you who manufactures whatever, then you go to them and ask. If your supplier can only tell you the next step up in the supply chain, but not who the actual manufacturer is, you got there, and ask them. Repeat as needed. I would have thought something like that would be pretty basic. Generation gap I guess. By the way, your cans of latex, or whatever, should have a 1-800 manufactur contact number on the can, probably on the back. Personally, I'd ask my mother before I'd ask questions like that here. You might want to check with your doctor(s) too.
JOAT A rolling stone gathers no moss...unless it's a hobby he does on the weekends.
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talking about asking your "supplier".
Really, and here I thought BPB and Georgia Pacific were manufacturer's of drywall. Goodbye.
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http://www.player-care.com/hideglue.html
Hide glue seems like what I want to use. Lee Valley says they carry a hide glue they call "veneer glue" in 1lb bags... I'm guessing this is what I want?
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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

Hide glue is made from animal protein. Do you have any trouble with leather?
There is also liquid hide glue available at many home centers, hardware stores etc. You would want to check the label to see what they put into it to keep it liquid. Glycerin probably, among other things.
Can you tolerate ethanol (grain alcohol) and/or methanol (wood alcohol)?
You can mix your own shellac from shellac flakes using grain alcohol sold at a liquor store, but if you can tolerate methanol then you can mix it with the much cheaper alcohol that has been denatured with methanol. But be sure to check the label, some denatured alcohol is denatured with ketones.
Of course you may be sensitive to the shellac resin itself, being nontoxic does not mean you cannot be sensitive to it.
--

FF


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I'm not sure of which compounds I'm most sensitive too because I've been exposed to such a wide range, I"m trying to limit everything. As far as shellac, I'm going to pick some up this weekend with hide glue, but really the alcohol should only be an issue when it's drying, right? Once it's finished and in the house there are no more methanol emmissions from it? I have excellent breathing protection in my shop.
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Resins *IN* wood products? Did you mean *ON*? Forgetting plywood for the moment, does a basic piece of oak or pine or whatever have man-made substances added to it?
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On Fri, 09 Dec 2005 15:12:27 GMT, "Doug Kanter"
Yes, the more resinous softwoods have quite an outgassing issue of their own.
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wrote:

Are you referring to their natural substances, or to something added by people?
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Do you have any more information on what exactly they outgas? I'm guessing that a few coatings of PVA glue would help but not completely stop the problem?
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http://www.casanz.org.au/Documents/tech%20papers/D.%20Mesaros%20paper%20Feb%2003.pdf http://www.maruhon.com/business/TVOCbasics.htm
Ok, so softwoods outgas terpene and some other volatile oils. I wonder what kind of lumber would be least toxic for building a frame then?
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