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Seeking PBT-free Silicone Sealants

James Vallette | February 01, 2013 | Materials

Today, the Pharos Project released a new “common ingredients” record, this one for silicone adhesives and sealants. Silicones affix and seal many materials to buildings, from carpet backing to window framing. In the course of this research, we identified two ingredients of particular concern: cyclosiloxanes and organotin catalysts....


"All of That Is Gone Now": Coal Waste Processors Sue EPA

James Vallette | August 20, 2012 | Materials

The two largest processors of coal power plant waste used in building materials - Boral Material Technologies and Headwaters Resources - are suing the US Environmental Protection Agency over its indecision about regulating their products. For all concerned, it would have been better to have this discussion before coal combustion waste entered the b...


How Pharos altered my marketplace behavior

James Vallette | May 31, 2012 | Materials

Researching products for Pharos is a privileged if at times depressing position.  I learn how materials are made, and then I help to alert people to potential hazards about products they are considering buying. This knowledge comes in handy when I am doing my own shopping. Last weekend, I opened my wife Eliza’s family camp in the Adi...


The Toxic Chemicals that Lurk in Unfinished Wood Floors

James Vallette | April 26, 2012 | Materials

One might think that an unfinished wood floor is devoid of synthetic chemicals. It sure looks that way--but toxic preservatives may lie in plain sight.

Moist lumber is susceptible to fungal staining. This staining does not cause physical decay, but it looks bad. Commonly called "blue stain," the offending fungi may be yellow, orange,...


Finding Market Transformation in an Unexpected Place

James Vallette | April 24, 2012 | Materials

Eliminating formaldehyde-based binders in laminates and particleboard. Producing chemical building blocks, like ethylene and butanol, from agriculture, not petrochemicals. Transparency in material content disclosure.


Pharos Finishes Another Layer of Flooring Evaluations

James Vallette | March 27, 2012 | Materials

Pharos has evaluated a wide range of flooring products, from wood to vinyl, rubber, and cork.  Now we add another layer of analysis to help architects and designers choose flooring systems that maximize renewable material content and minimize environmental and human heath impacts: Flooring Finishes. Flooring finishes form a film on or in t...


EPA Reaffirms PVC's Negative Health Impacts

Bill Walsh | March 19, 2012 | Materials

EPA Actions Offer More Support for LEED 2012 Approach to Chemicals of Concern: Comment Period Ends 3/20/12 Two actions from the US EPA last month reaffirm the serious and unique negative health impacts of the polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic lifecycle. For the green building community, the Agency's latest evaluations of PVC and dioxin affirm bo...


Plastics Society's Tin Ear: Conflict Minerals in Building Materials

James Vallette | February 07, 2012 | Materials

My primary work here in the Pharos Project is to figure out what's inside building materials. Often this research takes me into unexpected territory. A recent look into the manufacturing process of flooring finishes brought my attention to the compound stannous octoate. Examining its life cycle chemistry led me into a virtual tour of a very ble...


PVC Building Products Manufacturer Tops Dioxin Dumping List

Tom Lent | January 25, 2012 | Materials

A manufacturer of PVC pipe, vinyl siding and other building and consumer products is now reportedly the number one source of dioxin releases in the country. A recent assessment of the EPA's Toxics Release Inventory, by the Institute for Southern Studies identified Westlake Vinyls in Calvert City, KY as the worst dioxin polluter in 2010, repor...