Tom Lent, Policy Director, is responsible for defining the Healthy Building Network's guiding philosophy and policies with regard to building materials. Tom has spent over 35 years working on the environmental impact of buildings, materials, and energy in both the private sector and with public interest groups. Tom helped coordinate development of the Green Guide for Health Care (GGHC), the US Green Building Council's LEED for Healthcare and the Sustainable Bioplastic Guidelines and has co-authored a wide range of studies of the comparative health and environmental impact of floorings, plastics and other building materials and sits on a variety of standards setting committees for indoor air quality and safer materials.
Tom oversees the development of the Pharos rating criteria and the Chemical and Material Library, and provides support in product category development and product scoring review. He headed the HPD Collaborative Pilot Committee that developed and pilot tested the Health Product Declaration Standard.
Tom has been honored with the Leadership in Advocacy Award by the USGBC and the Environmental Award for Outstanding Achievement by the US EPA Region IX for his work transforming the building materials market.
Follow Tom on Twitter (@HBNTom)
Tom's recent blogs in The Signal
Pharos is partnering with the EPA to insure that the insulation used in federal stimulus funded home weatherization programs is healthy and low in environmental impact. In a special project with EPA Region 9 and StopWaste, Pharos is surveying cellulose, fiberglass and cotton products to understand the current state of the industry on a variety of key parameters set by the EPA, including recycled content, indoor air quality, including application of the new residential emissions standards, and toxic content. Manufacturers interested in participating in the program are submitting information to Pharos which the EPA will use to evaluate products and modify standards.
Recent improvements in products are starting to show up in Pharos listings. For example, UltraTouch cotton insulation has...
Use of biobased materials whether from agricultural plants or from trees is appealing in green building due to their renewable nature. However, overharvesting, plantation farming, chemical use and other problems threaten many species of trees with extinction as well as threatening entire forest habitats and the animals and humans that depend upon them.
In order to help green building professionals avoid inadvertently using endangered species in green building projects, the Pharos team has just added a section to the Pharos Chemical and Material Library (CML) that deals specifically with trees and other biobased materials. The CML now includes over 800 entries for tree species or groups of species with reference to any applicable warnings of threats to their survival or their habitats. Species warnings indicate the Pharos system's prioritization of concern based upon the degree of the threat to the species. One of...
The US Congress has approved legislation to limit allowable emissions of formaldehyde from composite wood products, specifically hardwood plywood, particleboard and medium-density fiberboard sold in the United States. The new limits in are based on the levels established for the State of California in 2007 by the California Air Resources Board (CARB).
This is good news for reducing the serious toll that this known carcinogen takes on human health through widespread exposures in homes, offices and schools from building materials. The legislation should serve as a strong wake up call to the industry and help increase availability of...
Last week we described the major reductions in VOC content we are seeing in paints (Paint Industry Drives Toward Zero VOCs – Will Certifications Catch Up?). But does a low-VOC content number mean these paints are actually safe from the perspective of environmental health? Not necessarily.
As we described in an earlier blog (Sorting Out The VOCs), the total VOC (TVOC) criteria originally was established by the EPA to control product emissions of smog forming compounds into the environment, not to control direct indoor air health impacts. With the focus on smog formation, TVOC is a very incomplete measure of the potential health impact of chemicals of concern in a product. By official EPA definition, TVOC exempts some VOCs from measurement because they don’t...
Low-VOC labels and certifications abound on the paint shelves today. What do they all mean? Not necessarily what you think.
First, let’s look at the certifications. Green Seal, EcoLogo, CRGI GreenWise and MPI Green Performance all base their certifications on VOC content – and 50 grams/liter (g/l) is the magic number. Almost every single one of the certifications sets 50 g/l as the maximum VOC content for flat sheen paints. (Flat sheens are primarily for ceilings and walls, with a matte look and are the least scrubbable of the sheens).
The consensus goes out the window for other sheens, such as semi-gloss, gloss, satin or eggshell (each preferable for...