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
Many insulation products do their thermal magic by weaving fibers together to create a multitude of tiny insulating air pockets akin to those in a sweater. A wide range of fibers are now used to create this heat trapping phenomenon. In recent weeks, the Pharos team has added more loose-fill and blown-in insulations to the batts previously displayed. In coming weeks, we’ll add sprayed insulations.
How do the fibers stack up in Pharos? This week we look at the two major players: fiberglass and cellulose. While their R-values per inch are fairly equivalent, recycled content varies widely between the fibers, and formaldehyde and other IAQ questions remain:
Fiberglass has been the standard for blanket batts and is also used in some board, loose-fill/blown and sprayed products. Recycled content is now common in fiberglass product, though mostly in the 20 to 30% range, keeping Pharos scores for Renewable Materials in the 2s and 3s. Anco’s TextraFine is an exception...
US EPA proposed today to add 16 chemicals to the Toxic Release Inventory list which identifies the chemicals that companies must report if they send them up their smokestacks, out their sewage lines or into landfills – the first such addition in over a decade. The 16 are chemicals that have been classified as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen” by the National Toxicology Program (NTP) in their Report on Carcinogens (RoC), including several that are persistent, bioaccumulative, toxic (PBT) chemicals, and hence are likely to remain in the environment for a very long time, are not readily destroyed, and may build up or accumulate in the body.
It includes chemicals used in building materials such as 2,2-bis(Bromomethyl)-1,3-propanediol, a chemical you probably have never heard of but may soon again in Pharos since it is used as a flame retardant for epoxy,...
In the coming weeks, the Pharos Project will help you find warm and healthy materials, as we add a wide range of thermal insulation products to the database. Fiber and foam boards, loose-fills and blown-ins, sprayed and foamed-in insulation products will join the batt insulation products previously reviewed in the Pharos Project.
This week, the Pharos team highlights loose-fill and blown-in products. You will find some of the highest scores we’ve seen for renewable content among Pharos Project materials so far. (Click on the RnMTL column header on the Search Results page to bring the best scoring products to the top). This group of products also includes some with relatively good Manufacturing and Community Toxics scores, due to simple, relatively low toxic ingredient contents.
In future weeks, the Pharos team will explore a number of different issues presented by insulation products including:
So, you picked a low- or no-VOC paint or high performance coating (HPC) and it still smells. What went wrong? It might be the tints.
Listings of the VOC level in product literature for paints and HPCs generally only account for the un-tinted base product. Each ounce of colorant added to tint your paint or HPC may contain anywhere between 5 and 20 grams of VOCs. For a subtle off-white tint, requiring an ounce or less of colorant, this may not significantly affect the overall VOC content of the coating. A rich or dark-tinted color, however, could require 5-10 ounces of colorant, and the impact could be significant, adding 100 or more grams of VOCs per liter of paint or HPC.
Furthermore, some manufacturers add substantially more VOCs to the base products designed for deep colors, effectively doubling the VOC content before tints are even added. In the Pharos Project, the net result could be to drop a product by up to four (4) points on the IAQ and other Toxic User Exposure...
Pharos Project users may have noticed that products that are advertised as no- or low-VOC, are not necessarily rated highly in Pharos. For most interior finish products, Pharos scores a product based on whether it passes a 14-day test for emissions of VOCs* such as FloorScore, GreenGuard or Indoor Advantage. The system then deducts points for content of chemicals of concern that are flagged in the Pharos Chemical and Material Library. This addresses the non-volatile, toxic chemicals that occupants are exposed to, but the VOC tests don’t measure. Pharos puts a higher weight on the most hazardous of the VOC chemicals.
Pharos evaluates wet applied products, such as the recently-added high performance coatings (including paints, caulks and adhesives) a bit differently; starting with a score based upon the content of VOCs instead of emissions tests. Some of the VOC emission testing programs do certify these products, but these wet products act differently from carpets and...