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April 9, 2024

Spring refreshes in your home

With the arrival of Spring, you may be thinking about updating your home – with a lick of paint, some new carpets, or an update on your tired old bed mattress. With thousands of products to choose from, it may not be top of mind to think about chemicals used in manufacturing processes, so here’s our round up of some of the easier things to look out for before you choose. 


Painting and decorating 

Choosing a paint with the right colour and finish can be overwhelming with so much choice, but finding a paint that could be better for your health is also worth consideration. Many paints rely on chemical ingredients that evaporate into ambient air, especially oil-based paints. These chemicals are known as volatile organic compounds, or VOCs – you’ll recognise them as the paint smell when a room has been freshly decorated. Most paint sold in the UK is water based (84%), and whilst it has lower levels of VOCs can still be detected at trace levels.


It can take several days for the smell of paint to disperse. This occurs during a process called offgassing when airborne chemical particles (VOCs) from paint are released into indoor air. Inhaling VOCs can lead to minor health problems such as headaches, irritation to the throat eyes and sinus, and mild nausea. VOCs have also been linked to more serious conditions. One study found that maternal occupational exposure to solvents raised the risk of autistic spectrum disorder by 1.5.  


How to reduce exposure to paint VOCs 

Look for paints marked with ‘trace VOCs’ which should have less than 0.1% VOCs, the lowest amount a manufacturer can claim. Open windows and doors to ventilate rooms during and after painting to reduce the concentration of airborne VOCs. Install an air purifier with a HEPA filter to remove fine particles and improve air quality, especially in a bedroom whilst you sleep. 


New carpet 

70% of carpets sold in the UK are manufactured using polypropylene (a form of plastic) favoured for its hard wearing, easy cleaning, and stain resistant properties. Polypropylene carpet is an affordable, practical choice, but there are health concerns about what happens to indoor air quality when it is fitted. Like paints, chemicals used during the manufacturing process of polypropylene carpet are released into indoor air as VOCs – you will recognise them as that ‘new carpet smell’. Polypropylene is considered broadly safe, but exposure to VOCs released can cause respiratory irritations and in some cases asthma. Polypropylene carpet may also release microplastic particles. 


How to reduce exposure to VOCs released from carpet 

The easiest way to reduce exposure is to choose carpet made from natural materials such as wool or sisal. Carpets coloured with natural dyes will also reduce exposure to chemicals used to dye fibres during manufacture. As with VOCs released from paints, the same advice applies to synthetic carpets – ventilate rooms well, and keep windows open at night if possible. If the carpet has been fitted into a bedroom, sleep in another room if possible until the strongest smells have dispersed. Install a HEPA air purifier and run it around the clock for several days. 


Dreaming of a new bed mattress? 

We spend about a third of our time in our bedroom resting or sleeping so our bed is perhaps our most important choice of furniture. Foam mattresses and pillows manufactured polyurethane release gasses that might cause irritation, so ventilate them well before you sleep on them. Where possible choose mattresses made using natural alternatives such as organic cotton, wool, cotton, or bamboo. Search for ‘chemical free’ mattresses and pillows if you are updating your bed- here some ideas to help you get started, but please note, these are not product recommendations. 


More information 

Dulux interior paints water-based with low VOC 

Information on water-based paints from B&Q 

Ideas for Spring cleaning your home without chemicals



The information on our website should not be used as an alternative to medical advice from your doctor or other professional healthcare provider. If you have any specific questions about any medical matter, you should consult your doctor or other professional healthcare provider. is not responsible for the content of external websites. The inclusion of a link to a third-party website should not be understood as an endorsement. 

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