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healthier adhesives

The Best Eco Friendly Glue, Resins and Adhesives for Your Home

By Tobias RobertsRise Writer
Jul 15, 2019

Walking into a newly built home brings with it a unique odor that many people refer to as the "new home smell." Some of us might find this smell fresh and appealing. It is the evaporation of a concoction of chemicals found in paints, sealants, flooring, sheetrock, wood, and other common building materials. Glues, caulks, resins, and other adhesive materials are routinely added to several home construction materials. It will increase their durability and performance and regularly off-gas into the home for several weeks or months (and sometimes even longer). Rise has written about the importance of finding low- or no-VOC paints. Similarly, finding VOC-free glue, resins, and adhesives for home interiors is an important strategy to maintain healthy indoor air quality for you and your family.

Causes of the Sick Building Syndrome

Sick building syndrome (SBS) has been known to cause many adverse health effects, especially in people who occupy a recently built or renovated building. Adverse health effects can include headaches, dizziness, nausea, eye, nose, throat irritation, dry cough, dry or itching skin, difficulty concentrating, fatigue, and increased incidence of asthma attacks. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates, one of the primary causes of sick building syndrome are the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted from "adhesives, carpeting, upholstery, manufactured wood products, copy machines, pesticides, and cleaning agents." In almost all of these products, resins and glues are among the primary emitters of VOCs and routinely contain formaldehyde, which is considered a probable human carcinogen

Phenol-Formaldehyde Resin is one of the most commonly used industrial resins and is widely used in dozens of everyday household products. For example, phenol-formaldehyde is almost universally used as the adhesive to bond plywood products and offers structural and moisture durability. One recent study found that long-term exposure to formaldehyde resins can not only cause respiratory health problems. It might be linked to skin rashes and other dermatological issues. 

Other standard adhesives and resins, including glues and caulk products, can routinely contain BPA and phthalates. Exposure to BPA has been linked to fertility problems, male impotence, heart disease, and other conditions. Phthalates are commonly used as solvents in several paint products and, according to one study, can damage the liver, kidneys, lungs, and reproductive system.

What are “Green” Resins and Adhesives?

Are there other options? For thousands of years, people worldwide have learned to identify specific plants that offer adhesive properties. For example, in the desert southwest, indigenous cultures have long added prickly pear cactus juice to the earthen plasters over their homes. The juice from this common cactus is known to help the plaster set and harden. In addition, the juice is a natural stabilizer that increases the water resistance of the home.

prickly pear cactus
Photo Credit: Dirt Dobber Construction

Today, scientists are developing bio-resins or plant-based resins and glues that offer similar performance standards to their synthetic counterparts. It is drastically reducing the adverse health effects assoc0iated with the off-gassing of VOCs.

Bio resins, or plant-based glues, can be incorporated into several green building products, including manufactured wood products, caulks, and commonly used household glues. Products made from renewable materials such as plant proteins, natural rubber, starch, or cellulose reduce our dependence on the petrochemical industry. It has long dominated the adhesive and resin industry.

greenguard adhesive
Photo Credit: Glue Warehouse

In addition, caulks, glues, and adhesive products that receive the GREENGUARD Gold Certification are required to limit VOC emissions to healthy levels. These products should comply with the stringent requirements of more than 360 VOCs and total chemical emissions. GREENGUARD Gold Certified products must comply with the State of California's Department of Public Health "Standard Method for the Testing and Evaluation of Volatile Organic Chemical Emissions from Indoor Sources Using Environmental Chambers, Version 1.1 (2010). Products labeled GREENGUARD Gold would be a healthier choice.

Hot New Trends in Healthier Glues and Adhesive Products 

Sustainable and healthy glues, adhesives, and caulks should be a priority for every homeowner interested in improving their indoor air quality. It will reduce dependence on the petrochemical industry. Below, we review a few top companies developing and commercializing healthier glue and adhesive products for a sustainable home.

DSM Plant-Based Paints

This company specializes in developing sustainable and healthy coating resins. Decovery®, a family of environmentally friendly paint resins made from 30 to 50% plant-based content, is one of DSM´s most recent inventions. This painted resin is made from corn, seeds, tree bark, castor beans, and other agricultural waste. It delivers a performance that is at least equal to that of conventional acrylic paints without negatively affecting the food chain. DSM claims that their line of Decovery paints reduces the carbon footprint of household paint jobs by up to 34%. While Decovery plant-based paint has yet to be released commercially, it should play a significant role in bringing high-performance bio paints to sustainably-minded homeowners. 

Marmox Multibond

Caulks and sealants play an important role in sealing off our homes from outside temperatures, thus increasing our living spaces' energy efficiency and thermal performance. One of the five passive house principles is that an airtight housing envelope will stop heat loss and moisture accumulation. Therefore, proper caulking and sealant around doors, windows, and other vulnerable parts of the housing envelope are essential. Unfortunately, oil-based caulks and sealants often release an enormous amount of VOCs into the home. It might include petroleum solvents, ethylene glycol, isocyanates, formaldehyde, phthalates, bisphenol A, or BPA. 

Marmox Multibond sealant and adhesive, manufactured in the U.K., is a 100% solvent-free material with absolutely zero VOC emissions. Besides contributing to healthy home interiors, Marmox Multibond is fully waterproof and has acoustic properties that can contribute to your home's acoustic performance. This product is made from Inert Polymer Technology, a non-reactive, environmentally friendly option that reduces the possibility of adverse effects on air quality.

AFM Safecoat

AFM is one of the leaders in producing and commercializing environmentally responsible, sustainable, and non-polluting paints, stains, wood finishes, sealers, and related green building products. They aim to develop products that "eliminate toxic emissions and prevent bad indoor air quality from creating healthy homes, schools, and offices—and ultimately protecting the environment." Their 3 in 1 Adhesive Product is a low-odor, not toxic, water-based adhesive is designed for hard composition wall and floor tiles and carpeting. Similarly, their caulking compound is designed to replace oil caulk and putty for windows, cracks, tub and shower enclosures, and general maintenance. It will not dry out or crack and does not release any solvents or harsh odors. You can find a list of AFM Safecoat Dealers here.

Plant-based bio-resins and glues will soon reduce our dependence on petroleum-based products that come from a non-renewable resource (petroleum). It is damaging to the environment and our health. It might take a little extra time to find VOC-free glues, caulks, and other adhesives for your renovation project. It is a great way to make sure that you are not breathing in dangerous chemicals that might otherwise off-gas into your home.

Disclaimer: This article does not constitute a product endorsement however Rise does reserve the right to recommend relevant products based on the articles content to provide a more comprehensive experience for the reader.Last Modified: 2021-07-23T13:12:38+0000
Tobias Roberts

Article by:

Tobias Roberts

Tobias runs an agroecology farm and a natural building collective in the mountains of El Salvador. He specializes in earthen construction methods and uses permaculture design methods to integrate structures into the sustainability of the landscape.