Highlights from the Pharos Blog: The Signal

Bill Walsh - March 3, 2010

Pharos ProjectFor the past month my colleagues have been blogging about their experiences behind-the-scenes in the Pharos Project as they evaluated High Performance Coatings, the durable paints used in places like boiler or mechanical rooms, as well as in food prep areas and operating rooms. It turned out to be all too much a behind-the-scenes endeavor since, as my colleague Jim Vallette reports, only 2 of the 17 companies whose products were evaluated provide customers with sufficient material content information in their public literature.

Jim goes on to explain the process we use to bring Pharos Project subscribers a reliable evaluation in lieu of manufacturer disclosures. But the failure to disclose basic product ingredients to customers is a disturbing contradiction to any stated claim of corporate transparency or sustainability, especially when important health and safety information is being withheld. For example, as Julie Silas reports, high performance coatings typically rely upon chemicals listed as carcinogens, and persistent and bioaccumulative toxins, although in some European countries, the latter have been “almost completely phased out” of these products. But if a persistent, bioaccumulative chemical like nonylphenol has been phased-out in some countries, should a product that uses it in the US be considered green?

Many of these coatings also rely upon bisphenol A, the chemical made notorious by leaching from baby bottles and water bottles. The EPA recently listed BPA as a chemical of concern due in part to a study of workers exposed regularly to epoxy-based resin spray paint. More recently, a study of Chinese BPA manufacturing facility workers found that, “the workers in the BPA facilities had quadruple the risk of erectile dysfunction, and seven times more risk of ejaculation difficulty."

Tom Lent points out why most indoor air quality certifications based upon VOC-emissions are inadequate measures of these and other human health impacts from paints and coatings. Which is why, as Larry Kilroy sums up, green labels are no longer enough. Green building professionals should expect and demand informational transparency as an essential prerequisite to any product evaluation.

--Bill Walsh, Executive Director

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