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Dirty energy cleanup shifts burden to building materials

James Vallette | January 20, 2012 | Materials

The compartmentalization of environmental policies can create escape valves for pollution.  Regulations that do not reduce toxic inputs lead to a transfer of hazards. We have seen this, for example, with solid waste regulations. In the 1980s, when new regulations forced major disposal practice changes, waste generators took advantage of a la...

From Compost to Composites: Innovating with Cow Pies

Melissa Coffin | July 27, 2011 | Materials

Earlier this month I was introduced to a new product for Pharos, a line of wall boards and panels made from a blend of cellulose sources -- recycled cardboard, old newsprint, and something near and dear to my Vermont heart: bovine processed fibers.  Yes, BPFs as they're known, are the fibers left over from the anaerobic digestion tanks use...

The No-Fly-Ash Zone: Alternative Recycled Materials in Carpet Backing

Sarah Gilberg | July 08, 2011 | Materials

A few weeks ago on the Signal blog, we examined some of the tradeoffs in choosing a carpet for its recycled content, particularly with regard to carpet backings made with coal fly ash, a coal combustion waste product which has been found to contain mercury and other hazardous heavy metals.  Pharos allows subscribers to evaluate not only comple...

NanoSphere - Friend or Foe

Penny Bonda, FASID, LEED Fellow, HBN Board Member | July 06, 2011 | Materials

n the mysterious world of nanotechnology, it's hard to know if this emerging science is the best thing since the invention of the Dustbuster, or a health scourge. What's a nano? Think small, very, very small, a billionth of a meter small. Comparing a nano to a meter is like comparing a marble to the Earth. Though tiny, nanotechnology makes...

Toxic Flame Retardants - New Data, More Warnings, Take Action

Bill Walsh | June 16, 2011 | Materials

Last Friday, June 10th, while attending BFR 2011: The 12th Workshop on Brominated and other Flame Retardants at Boston University, I learned that the National Toxicology Program upgraded its classification of formaldehyde to "Known to be a human carcinogen."[1] Formaldehyde was classified as "Reasonably anticipated to be a human carc...

Pharos Uncovers 46 Products with Chemicals Banned By New REACH Regs

Tom Lent | February 22, 2011 | Materials

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 a...

Ooh, That Smell

James Vallette | November 01, 2010 | Materials

While researching fabrics, I recently stumbled upon a disturbing new development: companies are integrating scents into fibers, to "enhance consumer experiences."

This hits me on a personal level: I am quite sensitive to many perfumes.  While I can control my own home and office environment, these fragrances make travel kind of haza...

Low VOC paints May Still Cause Asthma & Allergies

Tom Lent | October 22, 2010 | Materials

Fumes from chemicals commonly used in water-based paints and solvents may be associated with substantially higher rates of asthma, stuffy noses and eczema. The Swedish/US joint study reported in Environmental Health News this week found that children sleeping in rooms with higher concentrations of propylene glycol and glycol ether compounds (PGEs)...