I got an email recently with a funny title: Need Help Converting Husband. What fuel does he run on now?! The sender of the email, the wife, was not aware of the humor though. She was asking me for info to convince her husband, who from the sound of it seems like a lost case. But who am I to judge.

So I asked some colleagues for resources. I share the wife’s email and their answers.

If you feel inclined to evangelize green building these resources are a good start. I never feel so inclined since I can’t stand trying to convince others. However these same resources are great for self education too. Enjoy!

Original Email:

I am about to buy a wood frame house in Brooklyn with my husband and really want to use green building practices when renovating it. My interests are primarily about indoor air quality. My husband however is not concerned about the environment or indoor air quality and his main philosophy is, “If the majority of people are using toxic chemicals to build and are not dropping dead on the spot, then all these toxins can’t really be that bad for us.” I’d like to give him material to read or better yet a film to watch that can convince him otherwise. He is particularly susceptible to anything published in mainstream publications. For example, I have been telling him not to buy anything “flame retardent” for a while and he just thought I was crazy until he saw a tiny little article in the Economist magazine linking PBDEs and infertility. So can you recommend any viewing or reading material that is NOT fringe in any way that can convince my husband? I really don’t want to keep arguing with him, but I also don’t want to live in a toxic home and contribute more garbage to landfills.

Thanks, Wife

Green Building Comments:

the film Blue Vinyl comes to mind.

How about the shocking increase in children born with Autism (1 per 166 and 4 to 1 boys to girls I just read)
http://www.cnn.com/2006/HEALTH/07/28/autism.overview/index.html All the toxins and chemicals…not just in our homes, but in the air, water and food. Like pesticides and fertilizers. Preservatives and maybe even growth
hormone engineering?

or the rising rate of Asthma? (Pollution is the likely culprit…bad air)

Husband sounds most toxic to me. I advise eliminating him and all related fumes from the home’s environment. I guess you could call my suggestions related to male infertility…. or is it male futility…. Do you want cites to some lesbian feminist publications on the euphoric potential? Sorry folks…couldn’t resist.


Search at: http://google.com – or: http://scholar.google.com/

– or: PubMed – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez

Search for:

infertility + “Bisphenol A”
infertility + Phthalates
infertility + Xenoestrogens
infertility + “Environmental Estrogens”
infertility + “Hormone disruptors”
infertility + “Air fresheners”
infertility + “Cleaning products”

Add the term “review”, to find comprehensive medical journal articles
at PubMed, or Google Scholar.

Also try adding the term “construction” – or “renovation”, etc..

Without getting too technical, explain simply that there is acute toxicity (people dropping dead like hubby is picturing) and chronic or long-term exposure risks. This page wraps it up (National Cancer Institute report that most cancers are caused by environmental causes):

Also, I bet hubby will listen to cha-ching dollar signs–building green will ALSO cut his payments to Con Ed if they plan and execute the project right.
So you can both be happy, healthy and richer.
Here’s a rundown of financial reports:


The NCI report is very interesting, but they are using a much broader definition of “environment” to include diet, occupation, infection, etc. I think they are mainly looking at differentiating genetic from other causes. The table at the end states the proportion of cancer deaths from pollution (air, water, food) is between 1% and 5%, compared to much higher percentages for tobacco and diet. So it may not be the best argument for her case.


Well hopefully, if the United States Environmental Protection Agency is
mainsteam enough. They have many papers on indoor air quality and I believe
they coined the term “sick building”.

In a form digestible enough for a husband is:  http://www.epa.gov/iaq/voc.html

Now this does not actually say that indoor air quality can have a
detrimental effect on a woman’s libido, but it does specifically allude to
headaches, and that is close enough for her to get seriously convincing.