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Healthy Building Principle #1: Eliminate

By HHI Staff

The most important step to take in building or remodeling a house is to eliminate toxic materials as often as possible. Simply reject them from your list of potential building products. If there are no polluting materials used in the construction or renovation of a house, the air quality will be far superior.


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The principle of Eliminate is often considered the most important of the three healthy building principles of "Eliminate, Separate, Ventilate." This is because it is easier to build with healthy materials than it is to clean up the air in an already polluted house. Think about the tons of radioactive waste from nuclear power plants around the country that still need to be disposed of. If we had developed cleaner solar-generated electricity in the first place, we wouldn’t have such a big mess to contend with. Although they are no longer in use, lead paint and asbestos will be toxic legacies forever. It can cost thousands of dollars to remove lead paint from a house, considerably more money than a healthier paint would have cost originally.

What to Eliminate

If you are planning to build a new house, or remodel an existing one, and you want to utilize healthy materials, examples of items to eliminate would be manufactured wood products and combustion appliances.


Manufactured wood products should be eliminated because most contain glues that release formaldehyde. Even though some of these materials are somewhat better than others, personally I prefer to avoid all manufactured wood products because formaldehyde is such a powerful chemical.


Because combustion appliances (natural gas water heaters, oil furnaces, wood stoves, etc.) all have the capacity to release burned combustion gases into the air, I don’t use them in the houses I build. Natural gas or oil leaks are also common occurrences in basements, crawl spaces, and utility rooms. I prefer electric and solar methods of heating houses, heating water, and cooking.


There are literally hundreds of different materials used in houses that can affect indoor air quality, so it pays to do your homework before making decisions that you will ultimately have to live with for a long time.


(From Healthy House Building for the New Millennium: A Design & Construction Guide, published by The Healthy House Institute.)
(This article is from the archives of the original Healthy House Institute, and the information was believed accurate at the time of writing.)
(Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent those of The Healthy House Institute, LLC.) 



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HHI is committed to accuracy of content and correcting information that is incomplete or inaccurate. With our broad scope of coverage of healthful indoor environments, and desire to rapidly publish info to benefit the community, mistakes are inevitable. HHI has established an error correction policy to welcome corrections or enhancements to our information. Please help us improve the quality of our content by contacting with corrections or suggestions for improvement. Each contact will receive a respectful reply.

The Healthy House Institute (HHI), a for-profit educational LLC, provides the information on as a free service to the public. The intent is to disseminate accurate, verified and science-based information on creating healthy home environments.


While an effort is made to ensure the quality of the content and credibility of sources listed on this site, HHI provides no warranty - expressed or implied - and assumes no legal liability for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any information, product or process disclosed on or in conjunction with the site. The views and opinions of the authors or originators expressed herein do not necessarily state or reflect those of HHI: its principals, executives, Board members, advisors or affiliates.

Healthy Building Principle #1: Eliminate :  Created on November 29th, 2008.  Last Modified on February 28th, 2011


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