Paul Cassidy, Portfolio Development Director from British Gypsum, explains how some plasterboard and plaster products have been developed to reduce pollutants and improve air quality.
The events of the last twelve months have changed many aspects of our lives. Mandatory mask wearing on-site and in refurb projects is just one example of how we’ve had to adapt our ‘normal’ behaviours. One topic that’s risen to the top of the news agenda is indoor air quality. Not just in terms of improving ventilation to limit transmission of the virus, but how the quality of the air we breathe inside can impact our own, our work colleagues and our family’s health. That’s where plasterboard and plaster can give a breath of fresh air and offer greater value for homeowners having plastering work done.
According to the World Health Organisation exposure to indoor air pollutants can lead to a wide range of adverse health conditions in children and adults. These can range from respiratory illnesses, such as asthma, to serious eye problems and more life-threatening cancers and diseases. As large swathes of the population continue to work from home it’s estimated that homeowners in the UK are spending up to 90 per cent of their time indoors – either working, sleeping, or relaxing. However, the true extent of health problems caused by poor indoor air quality isn’t widely understood, and neither is the role that technologies in plasterboard and plaster products have on reducing health risks for the homeowner.
It’s not uncommon, for example, for people to complain about feeling ill or groggy after spending long periods inside. This is often down to airborne pollutants found in the indoor spaces in which we live and work. These pollutants, called VOCs (volatile organic compounds), are naturally emitted by pets, cleaning products, furniture, carpets and most paints. The most common VOC is formaldehyde, a human carcinogen found in adhesives in wood products such as MDF, carpets, furniture, paints and varnishes and known to cause headaches, nausea and fatigue. It also affects breathing and concentration.
A study conducted for Clean Air Day analysing homes in Birmingham, London and the Home Counties found 45% had levels of VOCs that exceeded healthy levels, with 28% of householders in homes with high VOC readings reporting multiple respiratory difficulties.
Around a fifth of homes in the UK currently have double the safe levels of formaldehyde. With walls and ceilings being the largest exposed surface areas in properties, the choice of plasterboard and plaster products used can significantly improve the quality of air inside a property.
Activ’Air technology, developed by British Gypsum’s parent company, Saint Gobain, actually absorbs and breaks down formaldehyde, decomposing it into non-harmful inert compounds. The technology is included in a number of our products including Rigidur H fibre plasterboard, Rigitone and GypTone acoustic ceiling boards, which are used predominantly in commercial building projects, and circulation spaces of multi-occupancy apartment buildings.
For domestic housebuilding and refurbishment projects, we have developed the ThistlePro PureFinish plaster range that comprises Activ’Air technology. Once applied to a wall or ceiling the surface can then be painted with a breathable emulsion paint where it will continue to absorb formaldehyde for up to 50 years, even after a number of redecorations.
Although ThistlePro PureFinish is more expensive than standard plaster there are tangible health benefits for the homeowner. Indeed, our feedback from installers and contractors state that customers are more than willing to pay a premium because of the associated long-term health benefits to themselves and their families, which more than outweigh the small cost differential
We’ve also received really positive feedback on the quality of these added value, healthier products. For example, feedback from plasterers is that ThistlePro PureFinish plaster is creamier, has a thicker texture and produces less dust when applying to walls and ceilings compared with standard plaster finish. It also gives excellent results on a range of backgrounds, so is ideal for new-build and refurbishment projects where both undercoats and plasterboards need to be covered by the same skim finish.
It’s likely that the issue of indoor air quality, and how to mitigate pollution will remain at the forefront of consumers’ and contractors’ minds over the coming months and years. Choosing materials and products that can therefore reduce or eliminate pollutants such as VOCs, will be a smart choice for trades people involved in both new build and refurb projects.
To find out more about our products containing Activ’Air Technology and to find a local stockist, visit https://www.british-gypsum.com/about-us/csr/building-responsibly/air-quality