Clean environments, free of dust, mildew and other
pollutants can be achieved with interior concrete floors.
Photo Courtesy of the Decorative Concrete Institute.

On average, we spend 90% of our time indoors—and most of that time we are in our own homes, according to Angela Dean, author of Green By Design. Yet, we are increasingly using products containing volatile organic compounds (VOCs), in some cases creating indoor air quality that is 20 to 30 times more toxic than outdoor air, she warns.

The Healthy House Institute reports that indoor air pollution is the cause of about 50% of illnesses. Common sources of this pollution include outgassing from toxic paints and finishes, carpeting, manufactured wood products containing glues high in formaldehyde, dust mites, mold spores, mildew, and some cleaning products.

When it comes to poor indoor air quality, carpeting is one of the worst offenders. New synthetic carpeting can outgas over 100 different VOCs. And whether made of synthetic or natural materials, carpet is difficult to clean and becomes a haven for dust particles, pollutants, and bacterial growth. Tens of millions of microorganisms can be found in a square foot of carpeting. Carpet can also be a major source of mold, especially if it becomes wet and the water isn't removed completely.

Concrete floors, stained with nontoxic pigments, are a healthier alternative to carpeting because they do not emit harmful VOCs and are easy to sweep clean. In fact, VOC emissions from concrete building products are much lower than those for most other building materials, according to PCA. The use of natural lime-cement plaster wall finishes and concrete countertops can also significantly reduce total VOC concentrations inside a home.

Exposure to toxic mold in homes and buildings has been blamed for ailments ranging from headaches to severe respiratory infections and immune system disorders. Mold can thrive on any organic material, especially in warm, moist, humid conditions. In addition to carpeting, mold can feed on drywall and wood studs, joists, and wall sheathing. Concrete floors and walls won't support the growth of toxic mold.