Chemical Sensitivity and Caravans

If you have ever been inside a caravan - old or new - and felt your eyes burn, throat go dry, or felt any other type of itchiness or other sensitivity, this is not normal and it is a consequence of inferior product manufacturing.  Unfortunately, very few caravan manufacturers in the world have sought to take any lead to improve the impacts of a caravan on your health beyond government regulations... and we haven't found any regulations covering health and chemical standards of the living quarters of a caravan in South Africa.

The issue of chemicals in caravans is especially important for older persons and children.  Children especially can get asthmatic and even worse consequences from chemical exposure due to being inside a caravan long-term.

What do you need to look out for?  Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and formaldehyde are the most common chemical irritants.  Paints, solvents, resins, adhesives, sealants, treated wood, fiber boards, pressed wood, vinyls, wallpapers, fabrics, flooring, PVC coverings, faux leathers, and other materials often yield residual off-gassing of chemicals - especially in heat - for many months and even years after your purchase of a new caravan.

We have not seen information on chemicals in caravans posted in South Africa, but in the USA the caravan industry is more transparent - sometimes in order to legally protect and indemnify the manufacturer from any consequence of making you sick.  This is what you find in the 2017 owners manual of a famous USA brand:

Chemical Sensitivity

Immediately after the purchase of your new recreational vehicle, and sometimes after it has been closed up for an extended period of time, you may notice a strong odor and/or experience a chemical sensitivity.  This is not a defect in your recreational vehicle...

recreational vehicles are much smaller than your home, and therefore, the exchange of air inside a recreational vehicle is significantly less than in a home.  These products, when new or when exposed to elevated temperatures and/or humidity, may off-gas different chemicals, including formaldehyde.  

This off-gassing, in combination with the minimal air exchange, may cause you to experience irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, as well as sometimes headache, nausea, and a variety of asthma-like symptoms.  Elderly persons and young children, as well as anyone with a history of asthma, allergies, or lung problems, may be more susceptible to the effects of off-gassing...

To reduce or lessen exposure to chemicals from off-gassing, it is of utmost importance that you ventilate your recreational vehicle.  Ventilation should occur frequently after purchase and at times when the temperatures and humidity are elevated.  Remember, off-gassing is accelerated by heat and humidity.  Open windows, exhaust vents, and doors.  Operate ceiling and/or other fans, roof air conditioners, and furnaces.  Use a fan to force stale air out and bring fresh air in.  

Our own opinion is that the company who published this statement probably has a better final health rating on the interiors of its products than many manufacturers out there.  However, we find it unfortunate that the industry as a whole must rely on statements such as the above.  

We cannot prevent all sensitivities, but, we do find that it is possible to build a caravan that is generally safer than a house regarding air quality and chemical exposure.  In particular, there is virtually no formaldehyde containing material used in the manufacture of a Hoefer caravan.

Further, Hoefer caravans uses glues, adhesives, sealants and general industrial chemicals in the manufacture of our products that are as good as money can buy for health and safety factors, including the reduction/elimination of VOCs wherever possible. By virtue of materials selected, our caravans are among the world's best at reducing formaldehyde and VOCs.