Chemical and Material Library

"Pharos team -- As usual you are right on top of the emerging details that help us all better understand the nuances of these complex issues."

Rick Schwolsky, Editor in Chief, EcoHome

There are materials profiled in the Chemical and Material Library

Reduce your project's environmental and health hazards.
  • Search over 34,000 substances screened against 60 authoritative hazard and warning lists
  • View prioritized environmental and health hazards, restrictions, and potential health hazards in the life cycle

Search Made Simple

  • Search chemicals, wood species, and other materials by common name, scientific name, or CAS number
  • Autocomplete offers chemical selections as you type

Identify Direct Hazards

  • Chemicals, polymers, and other substances are screened against 41 hazard lists
  • Wood species are screened against 5 endangered species lists
  • All substances are also screened against 14 restricted substance lists
  • Chemicals are benchmarked against the GreenScreen List Translator

Discover Life Cycle Chemical Concerns

  • Pharos researches the manufacturing chemistry for substances in Pharos listed products, and these manufacturing chemicals are also screened for hazards
  • The Library identifies chemical residuals from the manufacturing process that may contaminate products.

How It Works:

The Library identifies health hazards that may come directly from exposure to a substance or from chemicals used or created in its production.

For biobased materials, the Library identifies species that are endangered or may come from forest habitats that are threatened.

Click on the Chemical Hazard tab or Endangered Species tab for further explanation of each.

The Library identifies potential health hazards from both direct exposure to a substance and from the substances that may be used or created throughout the life cycle:

  • Direct health hazards: Pharos screens materials against authoritative hazard listings to identify potential health hazards for those exposed to the material. Persistent bioaccumulative toxicants (PBTs) receive the highest priority for elimination followed by priority health effects: cancer, genetic mutation, reproductive or developmental harm and endocrine disruption.
  • Life cycle health hazards: The Pharos team researches key materials to identify additional chemicals used, created and emitted throughout the material’s life cycle. Pharos screens these chemicals to identify potential health hazards to the workers and local communities near where the raw materials are mined or grown and then manufactured into products.

    Pharos staff conducts a preliminary literature review of life cycle chemicals for each ingredient of a Pharos listed product and more in-depth research on select common ingredients. Each chemical record is a work-in-progress. We welcome submissions and suggestions to improve our life cycle hazard data.

Pharos uses CAS registry numbers to compare materials against the Chemical Hazard and Restricted Substance lists shown here. If the material is listed, the name of the list and any warnings associated with that CAS number are color coded to indicate the Pharos system's prioritization of concern based upon the type of hazard and the degree of scientific evidence:

  • Purple
    Urgent concern due to known persistence, bioaccumulation & toxicity (PBT) or extreme global warming or ozone depletion potential. Avoid immediately.

  • Red
    Very high concern due to known or probable cancer, mutation, endocrine disruption or reproductive or developmental harm, or very high global warming or ozone depletion potential. High priority to eliminate.

  • Orange
    High concern due to possible chronic toxicity, respiratory sensitization, ecotoxicity or high global warming or ozone depletion potential. Next priority for substitution.

  • Yellow
    Moderate concern due to acute health effects or moderate ecotoxicity, global warming or ozone depletion or preliminary data of higher concern health effects. Avoid when possible.

  • Blue
    This substance has been identified for avoidance or careful management on a Restricted Substance List (RSL).

  • Green
    Material studied and found not to cause the listed health impact. Not a guarantee for other health impacts. Watch for other flags.

This ranking system is informed by the benchmarking system of the Green Screen for Safer Chemicals developed by Clean Production Action. The foundation of the Green Screen method is the Principles of Green Chemistry and the work of the US Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) Design for the Environment (DfE) and is being adopted by members of the Business-NGO Working Group for Safer Chemicals and Sustainable Materials (aka BizNGO).

Note: Absence of a hazard listing does not assure the safety of a material.

Many of the approximately 80,000 chemicals in commerce have not yet been thoroughly tested and evaluated for their direct health impacts. Nonetheless, with health effect information from over 40 national and international hazard lists covering over 20,000 materials and growing, the Chemical and Materials Library provides the most powerful tool available to help specifiers avoid identified potential hazards in materials in use and in their life cycle.

Pharos screens forestry products and other biobased materials against the authoritative Endangered Species lists shown here to identify trees and other timber plant species that are directly endangered or are frequently harvested from threatened forest habitats.

Wood is often very ambiguously named. Pharos searches based upon common name and possible genus and species names to provide a range of possible warnings dependent upon the naming.

Species warnings are color coded to indicate the Pharos system's prioritization of concern based upon the degree of the threat to the species:

  • Purple
    Extinct or Critically Endangered - species is extinct or facing an extremely high risk of extinction.

  • Red
    Endangered - species is facing a facing a very high risk of extinction.

  • Orange
    Vulnerable - species is facing a high risk of extinction.

  • Yellow
    Near Threatened- species is not yet considered vulnerable or endangered, but is close to qualifying for or is likely to qualify for a threatened category in the near future. Data deficient species or those not yet evaluated are also included.

  • Blue
    This substance has been identified for avoidance or careful management on a Restricted Substance List (RSL).

  • Green
    Least Concern - species is still widespread and abundant.

The Pharos ranking system is based upon the IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria prepared by the Species Survival Commission of the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.

Any wood species with an orange flag or higher should be avoided entirely unless its harvest was certified by a robust independent sustainable forestry certification system such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or better. Even yellow flagged species should be used with caution and avoided when possible due to possible threats to endangered species and destruction of critical forest habitats.

Absence of a warning listing does not assure that a species is free of threats.

Wood naming is ambiguous and subject to confusion. Many species have not yet been adequately assessed and building of this database is an ongoing process Nonetheless this Library is rapidly becoming the most comprehensive sources of information on threats to the wood species used in construction.

Click here to view the full Chemical and Material Library description [PDF]