Jim Vallette - December 18, 2017
When the world seems stranger than ever, it is helpful to keep in mind the bright spots. The Healthy Building Network research team found that increased manufacturer transparency and informed customer demand has produced many signs of hope in the building industry this year. Here are our top 5:
Formaldehyde-free mineral wool insulation: In 2015, the fiberglass insulation industry completed a transformation away from formaldehyde-based binders in all of its lightweight batts. This year, similar changes began in mineral wool insulation: Roxul and Owens Corning (Thermafiber) released mineral wool batts free of formaldehyde-based binders with more promised soon.
Lower toxicity flame retardants in plastic foam insulation: Plastic foam insulation products contain flame retardants in order to meet flammability requirements in building codes. These chemical flame retardants have historically been highly toxic halogenated flame retardants. E...
Jim Vallette - October 25, 2017
Home Depot, the largest building product retailer in the U.S., has announced a sweeping new Chemical Strategy that considers several building product categories, including carpet, fiberglass insulation, paints, and laminate flooring. (See related Healthy Building News article).
Home Depot’s Chemical Strategy promises to accelerate important detoxification trends in certain building product categories. Avoiding hazards in products is often a function-by-function process. In this blog we provide a detailed analysis of the impacts the strategy will have on making building products healthier. We also identify areas where chemical hazards remain and more action is needed.
Home Depot has eliminated a family of functional additives -- alkylphenol ethoxylates (APEOs), including nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs) -- from most interior and exterior latex water-based paints sold in its U.S. and Canadian stores. It will phase the rest out by the end of 2019.
Michel Dedeo - March 14, 2017
The Pharos Chemical and Material Library (CML) is an online catalog of over 46,000 chemicals, polymers, metals, and other substances that is continuously updated to provide accurate health hazard data. It identifies key health and environmental information using:
44 authoritative scientific lists for specific human and environmental health hazards
28 restricted substance lists
Pharos has recently expanded to better serve three of its partner organizations as follows.
GreenScreen Scoring Update
A new GreenScreen update, recently released by Clean Production Action, improves the ability of the GreenScreen List Translator to identify substances as potential PBTs (persistent and bioaccumulative toxics). HBN has updated the calculation* of GreenScreen List Translator scoring in Pharos to use this protocol. This changes 640 chemicals from LT-UNK to LT-P1.
In brief, this change affects chemicals that have various combinations of Persistent, Bioa...
Melissa Coffin - August 1, 2016
Since 2009, the Pharos Project’s Building Products Library (BPL) has been a resource for those seeking disclosure of the chemicals and materials used to formulate and manufacture building products. More than 1,600 individual building products appear in the BPL, representing 15 different product categories (adhesives, flooring, etc.). Compiling this data was no easy feat. It required a lot of time reaching out to manufacturers and formulators and urging them to disclose the contents of their products. More often than not, companies would opt to hold back some portion of information as proprietary or confidential. At that point, HBN would do its own research to fill in the gap of this missing data.
Patent review, industry publications, trade data, academic articles, and government publications were all referenced to account for substances in the product that the manufacturer was unwilling to disclose directly.
In 2015, HBN brought this rigo...
Jim Vallette - July 25, 2016
This week, product certifier Green Seal plans to release its new insulation standard, almost four months after receiving a slew of critiques of its draft. It has not yet certified any products, but the organization is asking buyers to ask for “Greener Insulation” that achieves Green Seal certification. We have not seen an advance copy of the final standard.
Promotional material now posted on Green Seal’s website indicates one significant change from the draft standard: it prohibits products containing hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD), the standard flame retardant treatment in polystyrene insulation. It states, “a Green Seal-certified insulation product will not be formulated with formaldehyde, certain heavy metals, the flame retardant HBCD, and certain harmful pesticides.”
While we welcome the HBCD prohibition, unfortunately, it does not appear that Green Seal restricts other halogenated flame retardants. It chose to exempt toxic subst...
Jim Vallette - July 13, 2016
The Vinyl Institute, an association of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) manufacturers, continues its industry-sponsored campaign against the Healthy Building Network in its latest blog post, “VALLETTE COULD USE A FACT CHECKER… (AND A PROOFREADER).” Like earlier posts in its Vinyl Verified website, this article has no discernible author.
Its strategy mirrors that of industry-funded climate change skepticism: deny that a problematic condition exists or minimize their industry’s contribution to the problem, and deride others’ claims about these problems as false, misleading scare tactics.
The Vinyl Institute’s Vinyl Verified blog is a gussied-up version of the “Vinyl News Service” website that it ran from 2005 to 2012. The VNS featured works of art by industry-paid skeptics like Patrick Moore who wrote in 2007, “The anti-vinyl activists have made a lot of crazy allegations about the effects of vinyl. For instance, they...
Jim Vallette - July 8, 2016
By 2018, extruded polystyrene (XPS) insulation will be available in North America without the extremely toxic flame retardant, hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD). Yesterday, Dow Chemical announced plans to construct a new manufacturing plant in Burley, Idaho, which will produce XPS insulation with its own flame retardant. Last month, Dow trademarked its butadiene styrene brominated copolymer by the name "BLUEDGE™."
This appears to be a good step forward, although much remains to be done to eliminate foam insulation's hazards.
"Small changes in this sector can multiply and add up to meaningful change."
Halogenated flame retardants like HBCD are substances of global concern; they are among the most toxic, persistent, and bio-accumulative substances used in building products. Typically, XPS insulation contains about 0.7% HBCD flame retardant by weight. Polystyrene insulation is the primary use of HBCD. The removal, recycling and disp...
Michel Dedeo - June 29, 2016
As more and more manufacturers disclose chemical hazards through programs like Portico, the Health Product Declaration, Declare, and Cradle to Cradle, it is critical that everyone have access to complete and accurate hazard information, even if they don’t have a chemist on staff. HBN's Chemical and Material Library is growing and evolving to meet that need.
The Pharos Project strives to provide the most complete and accurate information about chemical health and environmental hazards available by compiling information from authoritative scientific lists and restricted substance lists that cover 22 endpoints such as cancer, asthma, and developmental toxicity. Using this to better understand the health hazards associated with products can be more difficult than one imagines. It is enough of a challenge to correctly identify chemicals and associate them with hazards drawn from authoritative lists. It gets even more challenging because some hazards are associated not with indi...
Jim Vallette - June 16, 2016
As temperatures rise on ballfields across America, so do concerns over the piles of tire waste upon which children play. Synthetic turf playing fields lie atop heaps of finely ground recycled rubber from old tires. In playgrounds, chopped up tire mulch is becoming as common as dirt. In the United States between 2007 and 2013, enough ground tire waste was used as playground mulch to leave the equivalent of two 4”-deep wheel-wide tracks along Earth’s equator.
In the 1990s, over one billion waste tires were piled high across the country, in tire dumps that frequently caught fire, sometimes for weeks. The tire industry launched an innovative solution: it began promoting the use of tire waste as a safe alternative to dirt in playgrounds. Now, at a rate of 25 million tires per year, the industry diverts ground rubber from tires into athletic and other playing surfaces. At any given moment, four million children in the United States may be playing atop tire wa...
Jim Vallette - June 13, 2016
In a cavernous, lightly filled, State House hearing room last month, the New Jersey State Commission of Investigation turned over the latest evidence that highly contaminated materials are winding up in the worst of all places: around buildings, in playgrounds, gardens, and backyards.
Lee C. Seglem, the commission’s acting executive director, testified that “rogue dirt brokers” with “criminal ties” are unloading contaminated fill materials in all sorts of places. They have even “passed off” toxic dirt as “properly recycled topsoil – perhaps destined for gardens and flower beds in neighborhoods across the State.”
Over in New York City, regulators have cracked down on soil traders, and say contaminated fill is going into the “cheapest hole.” They say that a lack of oversight over the soil trade opens the door for shady operators, like Pure Earth Inc., a publicly traded company registered with the...