Common Product Methodology


Updated January 25, 2019

Introduction

A Common Product profile (CP) is a type of data record originally developed as part of a collaboration called the Quartz Project and now maintained by the Healthy Building Network (HBN). The profiles are not specific to any manufacturer, but list the substances that are most commonly present in a product type as well as their associated human and environmental health hazards. Common Product profiles in Pharos may include original records developed by HBN through the Quartz Project as well as new records since created by HBN alone.

The purpose of this Common Products database is to be an educational and actionable source of information for those who are looking to more deeply understand the common human and environmental health implications of a variety of building products on the market.

Disclaimer

Common Product profiles are common representations of building products based on numerous respected sources—including specific product literature, transparency documents, trade association data, industry standards, and patents. These profiles are not endorsed by product manufacturers. Real manufactured products can vary widely between manufacturers with respect to product formulations. Common Product data is best used as benchmarks to represent generic products and should not be used as a replacement for specific manufacturer literature and technical documentation. Only a fraction of product categories have been reviewed and included in the current database. If there is a product you would like to see in the database, please write to us at research@healthybuilding.net.

The methodology by which discrete quantities, components, and chemicals have been included in each profile is documented below. Our methodology is rigorous, consistent, and most importantly, transparent.

Investigating and Creating Common Product Profiles

Each Common Product profile (CP) includes the following components:

Common Product Definition

Every Common Product profile includes the following fields:

Table 1: Parts of a Common Product

Name The most common way of referring to the CP
Synonyms Any known alternatives to the name
Description A summary of the product information, such as the composition, how the product is made and/or installed, key environmental or human health attributes, and/or any assumptions made in defining the CP, as well as references to relevant standards (ASTM, ANSI, etc.) used in determining the boundaries of the product’s content
Contents A functional list of the product’s intentional components with the associated information when applicable: CASRN, percent weight within overall product, function or role within the product, sources (citations), and additional notes
Process Chemistry Chemicals used or created during manufacturing based on Pharos team research. Information is provided in two sections:
  • “Known and Potential Residuals” lists the upstream process chemicals that our research indicates were used to make the chemicals in the CP, and are more likely to be present as residuals in the product. Also includes additional known and potential residuals for the product type specifically, as identified in the CP research.
  • “Other” lists the upstream process chemicals that our research indicates were used to make the chemicals in the CP, but are less likely to be present as residuals.

Sources of Information

A combination of publicly available documents were used to inform the composition of each Common Product. These documents include, but are not limited to, trade association documents, Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs), Health Product Declarations (HPDs), patents, Safety Data Sheets (SDSs), technical product documents, and documents provided by government, academic, and other authoritative institutions. Because product compositions change frequently, recent sources were preferred over older sources.

Investigating Product Composition

The Common Product database contains a “generic” composition for each CP, as opposed to a manufacturer-specific composition or an aggregation of all possible contents used across manufacturers. The most common material or substance for a given function is included (unless multiple substances per function is found to be common), and the proportional allocation of each material or substance is based upon actual formulations in the marketplace to ensure the “generic” compositions represent functional products.

The vocabulary used for describing different components of a Common Product are consistent with terms used in existing standards and assessments, as identified by the Material Health Harmonization Task Group. Read more about their findings in their Material Health Evaluation Programs Harmonization Update report (April 2015).

Figure 1: Primary product taxonomy (image adapted by Material Health Harmonization Task Group, originally sourced from Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute)

Disclosure

Contents are included in the Common Product profile if they meet the following disclosure thresholds:

Quantification

The mass percentage of each material or substance is derived by taking a median of the quantities identified across all sources. If the sum of the median percentages does not equal 100%, the percentages are normalized to total 100%, keeping the individual substance percentages within the range reported in the literature.

State

Composition is determined for each product based on its state as delivered to the job site; for example, paint applied on-site is characterized in its liquid state.

Capturing High Concern Impurities

The CPs also capture unintentional content when appropriate, as dictated by the following methodology:

Identification

All impurities, including residuals from processing and contaminants from raw materials, are identified using Process Chemistry Research as reported in the Pharos Chemical and Material Library (CML) or other sources. The Process Chemistry Research looks at substances used in or produced during the manufacturing process, including reactants, catalysts, solvents, by-products, and process aids, as well as contaminants or pollutants commonly found in the materials or substances.

Disclosure

Process chemistry identified in the Pharos database is reported in the CP, and additional impurities and residuals identified in the CP research are reported if they have a health hazard not already covered by the associated substance.

Quantification

Mass percentages for impurities within the product are quantified if data is available. Quantities come from (a) aggregated data provided by industry trade associations or government authorities, or (b) a minimum of two independent sources. Otherwise, the mass percentage is listed as “unknown”. Once quantified, the same threshold rules apply for the inclusion of impurities as for the intentional content detailed above.

Lack of Disclosure

Sometimes publicly available sources are insufficient for identifying discrete materials or substances beyond a general description. In such cases, a proxy material or substance is reported that matches the function of the unspecified content. For example, public information about coatings applied to the interior of sprinkler pipes describe them as “epoxy” with no further specificity. A CP for a general epoxy high-performance coating was used as the proxy for what might be used specifically in sprinkler pipes.

Polymers

Lack of disclosure often occurs with polymers, whose identities are sometimes held as proprietary and only referenced using a general name within the product literature. In such cases, the identity of a given polymer is determined from patent information if possible. Patents often provide a formulation of ingredients that are reacted to form the finished polymer and can be used to identify common reactants. These common reactants are listed as impurities if they pose a hazard not already captured by the polymer. In addition, if the mass percentage of a polymer within a product is not available, it is estimated by adding the mass percentages of its reactants (such as monomers and crosslinkers) within the product. If the polymer’s specific name or CASRN cannot be identified, it is listed by its general name without a CASRN and “unknown” health hazards.

When no common reactants are known but a representative polymer is identified (i.e., no specific polymer is identified as common, but one source references the CASRN), the identified polymer is included as a representative polymer.

When no common reactants are known and no representative CASRN is identified, the polymer is listed by its general name without a CASRN. No residual information is included unless it is available from product literature. The health hazards are “unknown”.

Source Documentation

All content included in the CP is appropriately cited with a list of sources from which the information was derived. This includes sources used to determine the common substance or material as well as percentages and functional use. Additional sources that contributed to defining any other part of the profile are also cited.

Common Product Health Hazard Screening

About Health Hazard Screening

A variety of state, national, and international governmental bodies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) maintain authoritative chemical hazard lists. These are lists of substances for which an authoritative body of scientists has undertaken a systematic review of scientific evidence and categorized the substances as having an association with a specific health hazard. There is currently no single, comprehensive authoritative list or database that assesses and rates all chemicals across all human health hazard endpoints. The Pharos CML begins to address this problem by combining many single hazard endpoint lists into one combined database that provides a view across multiple endpoints.

Health Hazard Screening of Common Products

Health hazard data from the Pharos CML is used to screen the chemical substances within the CPs to determine if the substances have been associated with a health concern by an authoritative body. Dozens of authoritative hazard lists from the Pharos CML, including the entire GreenScreen List Translator set of lists, are referenced for CP hazard screening. The screening does not include a risk or exposure assessment. If, however, the hazard screening designates the hazard as occupational, this is indicated.

See the system description for Pharos for more information on hazard flags and health hazard endpoints as well as the authoritative lists and governing bodies responsible for hazard warnings in the CPs.

Glossary

CASRN - A Chemical Abstract Services Registry Number is a unique identifier assigned by the Chemical Abstract Service of the American Chemical Society to uniquely identify chemical elements, compounds, polymers, and other materials and mixtures. Frequently used in Safety Data Sheets (SDSs). Also known as a “CAS number”.

Chemical Substance or Substance - A substance of fixed composition, characterized by its molecular structure(s), which typically has an associated CASRN.

Common Product profile (CP) - A profile of a generic, non-manufacturer-specific product that contains: 1) definition and composition based on curated, public, technical documents, and 2) health hazard screen data based on the Pharos CML.

Contents - A general umbrella term for everything in a product or part (homogenous materials and/or chemical substances).

GreenScreen List Translator - The GreenScreen® List Translator maps authoritative and screening hazard lists, including Globally Harmonized System (GHS) country classifications, to GreenScreen hazard classifications. The GreenScreen List Translator can facilitate screening and classification of chemicals based on national and international regulatory sources, influential NGO lists of chemicals of concern, deliberations from authoritative scientific bodies, European Risk and Hazard Phrases, and government chemical classifications using the GHS of Classification and Labelling.

Health Hazard Screening - Review of health hazards associated with a substance based on authoritative chemical hazard lists.

Homogeneous Material or Material - A uniform solid, liquid, or gas composed of one or more substances that cannot be mechanically disjointed, in principle.

Human Health Endpoint - Disease symptom or related marker of a health impact on a human or other being, e.g., cancer or reproductive toxicity.

Impurity (Residual or Contaminant) - An unintended constituent present in a material/mixture as manufactured. It may originate from the starting materials or be the result of secondary or incomplete reactions during the manufacture process. While it is present in the final material/mixture, it was not intentionally added.

Material Health Harmonization Task Group - The Material Health Harmonization Task Group (HTG) includes Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturers Association (BIFMA), Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute (C2CPII), GreenScreen/Clean Production Action (CPA), the Healthy Building Network (HBN), and the Health Product Declaration Collaborative (HPDC). This group was funded by the US Green Building Council to map the similarities and differences between the various programs and work towards synergies through inter-program harmonization and data sharing.

Pharos Project - A database for identifying health and environmental hazards associated with chemicals, materials, and building products, developed by the Healthy Building Network.

Product - A finished good composed of parts and/or homogeneous materials. A product may function as part of another product. A product may be made of one or more homogeneous materials, which are composed of chemical substances.

Quartz Project - The Quartz Project was an open data initiative promoting the transparency of building products. The project, a collaboration between Healthy Building Network, Google, Flux, and thinkstep, resulted in an open database of 102 Common Product profiles including common content, health hazards, and LCA data. This database represents a snapshot of information as of 2015 and is no longer being maintained or updated.