Design decisions influence our health. Our children start life with umbilical cords infused with chemicals that affect the essence of human life itself – the ability to learn, reason and reproduce. Google’s project coordinator for real estate, Anthony Ravitz, said that Google is trying to use safe building materials because:
- By focusing on the “health and vitality” of their employees, they can avoid illness
- – because healthcare is costly.
One of the presenters at last year’s Living Building Challenge, inspired by writer Michael Pollan’s Food Rules, shared a list of ways to choose products that remove the worst of the chemical contamination that plagues many products.
These rules apply to all products, including fabrics, so I’ve just edited them a bit to be fabric specific:
- If it is cheap, it probably has hidden costs.
- If it starts as a toxic input (like ethylene glycol in the manufacture of polyester), you probably don’t want it in your house or office.
- Use materials made from substances you can imagine in their raw or natural state.
- Use carbohydrate-based materials (i.e., natural fibers) when you can.
- Just because almost anything can kill you doesn’t mean fabrics should.
- Pay more, use less.
- Consult your nose – if it stinks, don’t use it.
- If they can’t tell you what’s in it, you probably don’t want to live with it. (note: this is not just the fibers used to weave the fabric – did the processing use specific chemicals, like heavy metals in the dyestuff, or formaldehyde in the finish?)
- Avoid materials that are pretending to be something they are not.
- Question materials that make health claims.
- Regard space-age materials with skepticism.