Constructive Dialogues Begin With Disclosure

Bill Walsh - September 15, 2014

Opponents of content and hazard disclosure tools such as the Pharos Project and the Health Product Declaration frequently raise concerns that this information will incite irrational panic about toxics in buildings.  In fact, to the contrary, there is a growing track record of constructive dialogues between building owners and product manufacturers that result in win-win solutions. This week, The Durst Organization, developer of the first LEED Platinum high-rise, Bank of America Tower at One Bryant Park, is publicly launching an ambitious multi-stakeholder engagement in New York City to “optimize the health and transparency of construction product ecosystems through material research and innovation, process improvements, policy/code evolution, and accessible education.” The Building Product Ecosystems (BPE) project is a partnership initiated by The Durst Organization with City University of New York (CUNY) and Parsons The New School For Design.[1] A hallmark of this... Read More

Truce or Surrender at USGBC?

Bill Walsh - September 3, 2014

Last week the US Green Building Council (USGBC) and the American Chemistry Council (ACC) issued a joint press release announcing an unspecified “new initiative designed to ensure the use of sustainable and environmentally protective products in buildings by applying technical and science-based approaches to the LEED green building program.” In an interview with Environmental Building News, a USGBC spokesperson identified a “supply chain optimization working group” as the heart of the new program.  The supply chain optimization working group is not a new initiative, however. It was announced previously in Spring 2013 in a published call for working group members[1], and has been under discussion since the USGBC’s last minute insertion of the “supply chain optimization” credit pathway in LEED v.4 at the behest of the chemical industry.[2]  The working group never achieved liftoff, it appears, because the ACC left the table to wage... Read More

More Vinyl Greenwash

Bill Walsh - June 6, 2014

The replacement of harmful phthalate plasticizers in a growing array of vinyl products is fueling a new rebranding campaign in the vinyl industry. Clean-vinyl and Bio-vinyl are a few of the trade names at the forefront of this campaign to position phthalate-free vinyl as a breakthrough and advanced green product. HBN’s in-depth evaluation of the new phthalate-free formulations reveals that these claims are more than mere overstatements. They’re more greenwash from the vinyl industry. As I wrote last week, our evaluation concludes that the removal of phthalates from vinyl products is a good thing.[1] However, even when viewed in their most positive light, the various reformulations of vinyl have not created a clean vinyl. To the contrary, these modifications underscore the essential problem with vinyl itself — chlorine chemistry. Phthalate plasticizers are needed because the polymer known as vinyl, chlorine-based PVC (polyvinyl chloride) plastic[2], is rigid and... Read More

Making Sense of Phthalate-Free Vinyl

Bill Walsh - May 29, 2014

Today my colleagues in HBN’s Pharos Project have released the first comprehensive analysis of the plasticizers that are replacing phthalates in flexible vinyl building products. The replacement chemicals in phthalate-free vinyl are not always clearly identified by manufacturers. The level of toxicity testing and the testing results vary among the six non-phthalate formulas we found now in use. The HBN analysis will help purchasers evaluate the claims of phthalate-free product lines in order to make informed choices about a wide array of materials including flooring, wall guards and coverings, wire and cabling, upholstery and membrane roofing. PVC (polyvinyl chloride) plastic, also known as vinyl[1], is rigid and brittle in its pure form. Phthalates have long been the chemicals of choice used to achieve the flexibility needed for many uses. Many phthalate plasticizers are known endocrine disrupting chemicals - chemicals that interfere with hormone cell signal pathways... Read More

Time to Close the Europe/US Paint Healthfulness Gap

Jim Vallette - April 10, 2014

Changes as significant as the elimination of lead and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are rolling over the paint industry. Leading global paint companies are removing four classes of toxic ingredients from products sold in Europe in order to qualify for valued ecolabels. Many of the same companies dominate the US market, but do not offer these healthier products for sale here. It is time they did. Troublesome ingredients under fire include: Nonylphenol ethoxylate (NPE) surfactants, which are endocrine-disrupting substances; Triclosan antimicrobials, which can contain high levels of dioxin residuals, and are building up in human bodies and the global environment; Nanoparticles, which have become widespread in paints despite growing concern over the potential health hazards of being exposed to nanoscale materials; and, Semi-volatile organic compounds (SVOCs), many of which are harmful to human health but have not been considered by indoor air quality programs. The... Read More

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