Pharos Uncovers 46 Products with Chemicals Banned By New REACH Regs

Tom Lent | February 22, 2011 | Materials

This blog post, originally shared in the Pharos Signal, includes information about parts of Pharos that are no longer available. Please use it for historical reference and for the other useful information it contains.

The European Union moved to ban five highly hazardous chemicals used in building materials plus a sixth chemical used in cleaning product fragrances under the REACH program last week.  In a Feb. 17 press release, the EU announced that these six "substances of very high concern will be banned within the next three to five years unless an authorization has been granted to individual companies for their use."

HBN staff surveyed the products we've evaluated in the Pharos Project and found forty-six products that contained one of the targeted chemicals or were manufactured using one as a feedstock.  Some of the chemicals were targeted for the ban because they are persistent bioaccumulative toxicants (PBTs) that spread widely from their sources without degrading and are building up in increasing concentrations in humans.  The flame retardant HBCDD is one of them, and it is present in nine polystyrene foam insulation products evaluated by Pharos. For an excellent assessment of the likely insulation industry impact and reaction to the HBCD ban, read the excellent blog on the topic by Alex Wilson of BuildingGreen

The types of building products impacted by the REACH phase-out of MDA include high performance coatings, flooring adhesives, carpet backings, sprayed polyurethane foam insulation, composite wood, and resilient flooring compositions that contain polyurethane wear layers.  MDA - targeted because it is a known potent carcinogen - is an essential building block of methylene diisocyanates, commonly referred to as MDI.  MDI is used as a binder in wood composites. It is also used in combination with polyol mixtures in most polyurethane systems.  (Some polyurethanes avoid MDA chemistry by using toluene-based isocyanates). Twenty-one products evaluated by Pharos include MDI compounds in their material contents.  Another nine products list polyurethane as part of their content. It is unclear whether these products use MDI or alternative isocyanates in their composition.

Three of the substances covered by the REACH ban are phthalates - (BBP, DEHP and DBP). These hormone disrupting reproductive toxicants are used widely as a plasticizer to make PVC flexible and sometimes also to increase spreadability in paints and solvents flooring.  All seven vinyl floorings in the Pharos system are known or likely to include either BBP or DEHP. Many of the vinyl flooring manufacturers have refused to disclose their ingredients, but our patent and industry practice research has revealed that BBP is widely used and DEHP is still in use.

Pharos users can learn more about the many toxicological impacts of these six chemicals by exploring them in our Chemicals and Materials Library.  The banned chemicals include:
HBCD & HBCDD (hexabromocyclododecane)
MDA (4,4'-diaminodiphenylmethane)
DEHP (bis(2-ethylexyl) phthalate)
BBP (benzyl butyl phthalate)
DBP (dibutyl phthalate)
Musk xylene (5-ter-butyl-2,4,6-trinito-m-xylene)

Pharos users will find products that contain these chemicals or any other substance by clicking on the red button labeled "Show products that contain this material" in the upper right hand corner of the chemical description page.