Highlights from the Pharos Blog: The Signal

Bill Walsh | April 14, 2010

Pharos Project

Let’s start with the good news! My colleagues in the Pharos Project recently expanded the Building Product Library, adding some insulation products that earned the highest scores ever, for renewable content, within the Pharos framework. Then, last week, the EPA proposed an expansion of our right-to-know by adding 16 chemicals to the national Toxic Release Inventory (TRI). The TRI, which identifies the chemicals that companies must report if they send them up their smokestacks, out their sewage lines or into landfills, is an invaluable resource for assessing building product ingredients, as our recent investigation of drywall products shows.

In early March, the Pharos Project added wallboard products to the Pharos Building Product Library promising “a surprisingly diverse range of content and scores.” They weren’t kidding. After reviewing EPA drywall test data and information that US manufacturers supplied to the national TRI database, Pharos researchers concluded that toxic mercury is present in some domestically manufactured wallboard products. Further research determined that formaldehyde emissions are also a concern. What was particularly disturbing about the formaldehyde issue was that both an industry trade association, the Formaldehyde Council, and US EPA officials had issued public statements disavowing wallboard as a source of formaldehyde emissions. But those statements are contradicted by industry documents, test results from the state of California and the US EPA, as well as TRI data from wallboard production facilities.

Last week, our researchers reported on more drywall disinformation in the infamous Chinese drywall case. The Louisiana Attorney General charges in a lawsuit that the Knauf corporation “In pursuit of profit . . . proactively pushed their defective Chinese drywall,” into Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina. Chinese drywall, unlike domestically manufactured product, is made with fly ash from coal-fired power plants.

The initial Pharos evaluation of drywall reveals important differences both in the ingredients of wallboard products and how completely manufacturers disclose those ingredients. Important distinctions exist even among products that have earned indoor air quality certifications. We invite you to see for yourself by registering for a week-long free trial.

--Bill Walsh, Executive Director

Recent blog posts:

"Fiber Face Off - Pharos Compares Fiberglass and Cellulose Insulation" by Tom L., 4/13/10

"Toxic Trade 2010: Drywall" by Jim V., 4/8/10

"EPA Adds to Your Right to Know What's Coming From That Smokestack" by Tom L., 4/6/10

"Formaldehyde Additives in US-Made Drywall" by Jim V., 4/1/10

"Cellulose Insulations Receive Pharos Project's First '8' for Renewable Content" by Tom L., 3/25/10

"If a Little Bit of Sunshine Can Melt Vinyl Siding, Think What Full Transparency for the Vinyl Industry Could Do" by Paul B., 3/23/10

"Mercury Contamination of Drywall" by Jim V., 3/18/10

"What Would You Like to See? What's Important to Your Work?" by Larry K., 3/17/10

"California Girls' Body Burden of Dangerous Flame Retardants" by Julie S., 3/12/10

"Transparency: Keeping It Real" by Paul B., 3/12/10

"Pharos Adds Wallboards to Building Product Library" by Jim V., 3/9/10

"Catholic Healthcare West - A Role Model for Chemicals Policy" by Julie S., 3/4/10