Sunday, February 15, 2009

With every breath you take

The recent storms in Brisbane provided an opportunity for schools and Government to give some thought as to the materials replacement eg carpet, furniture etc at local schools. It was interesting and very disappointing to observe that low toxic materials and environmentally responsible materials are not mandatory in the procurement policy for Australia Government schools.

I have been advised that there is a sustainable policy however the relevant purchasing people on projects do not have to select sustainable products or more importantly non/low toxic products for installations in Australian schools. With indoor air quality a known health hazard as documented by large organisations such as the World Health Organisation, The Environmental Protection Agency, the CSIRO, many health scientists and even on the Australian Government website - why is this not a consideration when selecting materials and finishes for our school classrooms ? Children are more vulnerable to chemical exposure than adults. There are Green commercial initiatives to improve indoor air quality of office spaces but this is not mandatory for our schools.

Building materials and finishes and particularly products installed to the interior of a building contribute to indoor air quality and inadvertently the health of the occupants. There are many chemicals found in all types of products that are used within the home, these are found in paints, adhesives, varnishes, soft furnishings, wall linings, some timbers and furniture, to name a few. At room temperature and higher chemical fumes off-gas (release into the air) creating a cocktail of chemicals into the indoor environment. These products can continue off gassing for years depending on their composition. The gas that is produced is often referred to as a VOC (Volatile Organic Compound). There are growing numbers of product on the market that offer low VOC alternatives for materials and finishes.

The Government has initiated environmental studies within school curriculum where issues such as indoor air pollution and sustainability are taught to encourage change. However it appears that contrary to Government social initiatives that the Government does not have existing strict purchasing legislation in relation to these issues for Government spending, with particular concern for our schools and environments that accommodate children.

The National health system is witnessing so many children with allergies, asthma / respiratory complaints and chemical sensitivities. With the Brisbane storm last November, Nth Qld floods, Victorian bush fires and the national educational refurbishment funds pending many construction decisions Nationally will be made that will impact on Australians health for many years to come.

We are all told to think about consuming healthy food, but before we eat we breathe ! I love this photo by tanakawho, for me it represents time indoors.
Healthy carpets, paints, timbers, soft furnishings and furniture are available. Just because you can not smell a chemical in the air does not mean it isn't there.
Looking forward to innovative change ......