The design needs to be practical and functional and it should survive short-lived fads and stay attractive. Experience shows that the best carpenters are not necessarily the best designers and it is worthwhile to consult a good and talented interior designer.
The inherent memory of the landscape where the tree has grown manifests in our lives and houses. Most people cannot share such an experience and we feel very blessed.
There is another point worthwhile considering when opting for individual solutions. Purchasing handmade furniture is a purchase which lasts for generations.
However, the main issue from a healthy building point of view is still the same: Wood is being mixed with synthetic adhesives and we end up with substances we don't normally find in our natural environment. Again, in a few years' time, we will probably hear more about people's experiences and health effects.
On the search for furniture without laminates and harmful adhesives, our family went all the way without any compromise. We found cabinet-makers who made our furniture to custom order using our own wood, which was harvested at the right time. The furniture ended up being wonderfully unique and will last for generations to come.
Dovetailed corners, wooden frames and paneling replace particle boards and laminates. Only for a couple of joints did we use a casein glue to support handmade fittings.
It actually is very special to us that we know where each piece of furniture originated from and what it was made into; a table, bed or trunk.
The conversation between us went on. Chipboard panels are nothing else than a hardened mix of pressed sawdust fibers and glue. This type of panel is still used today in the majority of cheap furniture. We talked about the fact this type of furniture can't be easily disposed of and nobody really knows how many people have been affected so far.
We knew that this furniture would not survive one move but they were incredibly popular. People bought them like crazy and we were making profits in the millions. Today I sit here as an old man and realize what really took place."
Plywood consists of three, five or more layers of thin wood glued together. For the top layer, visually perfect sheets are used, whereas the layers underneath are of a lesser quality.
Another type of panels is being produced with small wooden batons. Both panel types are quite advanced compared to chipboard, because the amount of glue used per square meter has been drastically reduced.
The Art of Building Natural Furniture
A manager who started to produce mass furniture in his factory in the 1960s and 1970s told me about the times:
"We were making furniture from a one-off piece to mass production. Those new chipboard panels were laminated with cheap synthetic decorations and mass manufactured.
If you wanted to prevent any chemical experiments on yourself, you should develop a healthy curiosity when buying wooden products. Prefer manufacturers and dealers who are open to disclosure of their product treatments and constituents. Someone who can prove the product is harmless to your health and the environment.
Irritation of the mucus membranes to nose, bronchus and lungs leads to shortness of breath and chest pain. Under prolonged exposure spasmodic coughs and bronchitis are the result. Isocyanides cause allergic reactions, e.g., Isocyanate asthma, a lung disease (Katalyse Umweltgruppe: das Oekologische Heimwerkerbuch; Rohwohlt, S 152).
Until it has transpired that those new molecules also prove a threat to the health of humans, more time goes by. I believe that it is an endless 'Catch 22'.
The wounds inflicted on nature by the production of synthetic products have not been factored in yet. Toxic treatments create toxic waste which cannot be put back into nature without causing more damage.
It makes sense to use untreated wood for floors and cladding inside and outside. No one needs to take the risk in the first place.
Why are we following the dead-end road sign of the petrochemical industry? Why do we resolve simple wood-working steps with a sorcerer's apprentice mentality? Why would we inflict more damage to our health and environment?
Precious time is passing by and in the meantime, the industry is looking for new chemicals to replace the current ones. The laboratories of the fossil fuel and petrochemical industry are developing new compounds with totally new molecular structures which are not part of our natural environment.
Substances which are suspected to be carcinogenic (aromatic amine amino acids (can be found in Isocyanate products and also are being released by them.
Even if it were possible to swiftly warn people about the dangers posed by Isocyanates and the chemical compound would be removed, more and more medical cases of Isocyanate toxicity would become public.
In a fire situation, Polyurethane is a death trap. Poisonous gases like Hydrogen Cyanide (Adler/Mackwitz: Eco tricks and Swindles, page 274).
Isocyanates are part of a particularly dangerous group of chemicals. Even small concentrations of fumes or dust (produced by normal wear and tear of these materials) in a room can cause serious health damage.
Isocyanates are highly active chemicals which react with skin and mucus membranes. They are even more toxic than Formaldehyde. The replacement used in chipboard is Diphenylmeth and Isocyanate which forms Diaminodiphenylmethane. This compound is strongly suspected to cause cancer.
The toxicity of polyurethane mainly stems from the original and unchanged chemical compound Isocyanate. Isocyanates are constantly being exuded into the surrounding atmosphere and have a highly irritating effect on mucus membranes, particularly the respiratory system. Allergic reactions like coughs, asthma and other breathing difficulties and headaches often are triggered.
Here is a quote from a personal talk I had with the head chemist of a famous natural paint manufacturer, Mr. Erwin Schusser: "If you compare the toxicity of Isocyanate and Formaldehyde, you will find Isocyanates are definitely not less toxic...!"
Properties of Isocyanates:
Isocyanates are highly reactive chemicals. They are used in large quantities for the production of polyurethanes.
The use of polyurethane varies widely (mattresses, soft foam materials, sealants, insulation, adhesives, finishes and others).
What Does "Chemically Treated Wood" Really Mean?
In the past few centuries, laminates, glues and synthetic preservatives have turned a natural building material into toxic waste.
A large percentage of modern wood products, furniture, building and flooring will be classified and treated as toxic waste.
After decades of unconcerned use and patronizing talk by the industry, we now see some treatments (with active ingredients like PCP, Lindan and adhesives containing Formaldehyde) recognized and declared as dangerous!
The same chemicals which turn wood into a toxic waste also diminish the quality of our lives and lead to questions like: "Mama, why can't I breathe anymore?"
Let's have a closer look:
The three main uses are:
This only happened after many people had suffered terrible damage to their health and now Formaldehyde has been replaced by another highly questionable synthetic resin which has Isocyanate on its list of ingredients.
It is hard to believe to see the devil being chased out by the deuce.
Clever sales techniques praise Formaldehyde-free furniture, wall and floor panels as healthy, natural and eco-friendly. But they forgot to mention their adhesives contain Isocyanate.