Studio Remodel + choosing flooring for the best indoor air quality

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I live in a house that's about 550 sq. ft.  This doesn't leave much room for creating large art. My 6x9 ft. back room has always been my office and tool area and I typically paint in my kitchen... or bathroom.. or bedroom (or anyplace that has a clear space at any given time, ha!). As you might imagine, my floors and tables have paint splatters galore.  I decided it was time to convert the back room into a studio only space.  So, I emptied the room and set out to complete a long overdue remodel.  

I don't talk about my health struggles much, but let's just say that my body is very sensitive to the things I eat as well as the environment around me.  Since chemical exposure affects me in a big way, I always seek out products that are as healthy as can be, within my budget.  Budget being the key word here, as healthy and budget don't always go together.

I spent hours researching flooring that was within my budget, DIY within my skill level, and offered the updated yet slightly rustic look I was going for. Finding a healthy option that fit these requirements was not so easy (and the outcome was not exactly a success). Following my week long internet search, I walked into Lowe's to see what they had for flooring. I asked a question about a laminate sample and unexpectedly, the man working took me over to the clearance area to show me one and offered 50% off the already low clearance price.  I wasn't necessarily planning to purchase laminate, but who can say no to that?! 

This floor was listed as Floor Score certified, which suggested that it's less toxic than others, so I was okay with the purchase given the deal I got. Fast forward to a week later when I open the boxes and set out to lay the floor. In the tiniest print imaginable (I truly had to hold the print up to my iPad camera and zoom in on the screen just to barely be able to make out the words), it says "this product emits formaldehyde", along with a whole paragraph of scary potential side effects.  I'm thinking, how can a product that's certified for healthy indoor air quality be emitting enough formaldehyde that there's a whole warning paragraph?!

There are two types of 'healthy' flooring certification - one being Floor Score certified and the other being Green Guard certified. This floor had the Floor Score certification. The flooring industry has created certifications based on adhering to certain rules/guidelines and tests the products to ensure they are within certain thresholds for various toxins, but that doesn't mean that these products are even close to free of chemicals or necessarily safe in your home. I equate it to choosing regular strawberries that have likely been treated with pesticides at some point vs. the organic option.  In all honestly, you probably won't notice any difference with the regular ones, but that's not to say that those chemicals aren't doing something or that long-term exposure won't do something, right? In this society, we're really good at buying and doing for the sake of convenience and low-cost, ignoring possible effects that we can't tangibly see or feel right now. We also tend to be trusting and if we see a certification that's associated with healthy indoor air quality, we believe it and buy it. 

All this to say - despite the formaldehyde statement on this certified product and the fact that I wanted so badly to find a healthier option, it just wasn't in my budget.  So, I installed the floor yesterday (wearing a respirator while sawing) and have been airing the house out.  My throat burned while installing and I'm ridiculously congested/sneezing this morning. I'm very sensitive so this might not be an issue for you, but know that whether you feel it or not, the odds of some sort of decline in your air quality are pretty good. The certified products likely offer a lesser decline that non-certified products, but a decline nonetheless.  

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My current plan is to purchase a few more houseplants to help with air purification. Here's a link to an article that lists the top 10 plants (based on a NASA study) that remove indoor toxins:

http://learn.eartheasy.com/2009/05/the-top-10-plants-for-removing-indoor-toxins/

I'm adding resources below (no affiliation to any, simply pages I've stumbled upon) that may help you to make a more informed decision. Keep in mind any resources which are linked to flooring companies may present information in a more positive light.

https://www.consumerreports.org/flooring/breathe-easier-about-your-flooring/

https://www.quickstepstyle.com/quick-step-spotlight/floorscore-floor-safe-indoor-air-quality/

Links to shop some eco/air friendly options:

http://www.greenbuildingsupply.com/All-Products/Sustainable-Flooring

http://www.greenflooringsupply.com/