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HBN | April 2019 | Newsletter
Concerns about indoor air quality are as old as the republic. Benjamin Franklin and John Adams are said to have argued the relative merits of sleeping with open windows in 1776. A century later, their institutional progeny at the US Environmental Protection Agency sided more or less with Franklin after studying Sick Building Syndrome concluding that “most indoor air pollution comes from sources inside the building.” Building materials led the EPA list of culprits. Today, as New Yorker contributor Nicola Twilley recounts in the most engaging article you will ever read about hydroxyl radicals (“Pac Man of the atmosphere”), research capabilities are so sophisticated that it is possible to isolate with scientific precision the impact on indoor air quality of toasting bread or a squeeze of lime. Still, among the most elusive indoor air contaminants after all these years are a subclass of chemicals known as semi-volatile organic compounds - SVOCs - chemicals that can’t be “controlled” with better ventilation.
HBN | April 2019 | Newsletter
Dr. Lauren Heine has joined MaterialWise as Director of Safer Materials & Data Integrity. A pioneering leader in the field of green chemistry, Heine brings decades of experience and leadership in green chemistry and engineering, alternatives assessment and multi-stakeholder collaboration which will accelerate MaterialWise’s efforts to enable a prosperous, toxic-free future for people, the planet and commerce.
HBN | April 2019 | Newsletter
Symptoms of “sick building” syndrome include “headache; eye, nose, or throat irritation; dry cough; dry or itchy skin; dizziness and nausea; difficulty in concentrating; fatigue; and sensitivity to odors”. These symptoms can develop after long-term exposures, or they can occur after a single instance of exposure, as in the case reported by the Minnesota Daily last month. Three carpet installers were sent to the emergency room after installing carpeting in an apartment building intended for student housing near the University of Minnesota. The workers could not tell doctors what they were exposed to because the carpeting did not include a complete list of contents. To find out, the workers first measured the air quality with a device ordered off of Amazon, which immediately “jumped to red” when exposed to the carpeting. The Minneapolis Building and Construction Trade Council then sent carpet samples to a lab for emissions testing. This testing found total volatile organic compounds (TVOCs) at levels that “significantly exceed” typical levels in the air. The chemicals noted on the report included some on the Minnesota Department of Health list of Chemicals of High Concern.
Teresa McGrath and Jim Vallette | March 2019 | Newsletter
Demand from the building industry now drives the production of chlorine, the key ingredient of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) widely used in pipes, siding, roofing membranes, wall covering, flooring, and carpeting. Chlorine is also an essential feedstock for epoxies used in adhesives and flooring topcoats, and for polyurethane used in insulation and flooring. On March 19, 2019, the Healthy Building Network will release Phase 2 of its landmark report on chlorine-based plastics that are widely used in common building and construction products. The report, “Chlorine and Building Materials: A Global Inventory of Production Technologies, Markets, and Pollution. Phase 2: Asia,” completes HBN’s global analysis of the industry.
Rebecca Stamm | March 2019 | Newsletter
Healthy Building Network, along with Energy Efficiency for All (EEFA), has released “Guidance for Specifying Healthier Insulation and Air-Sealing Materials,” a new resource to help those working in multifamily energy efficiency upgrades make healthier material choices.
Bill Walsh | March 2019 | Newsletter
When it comes to human and environmental health, there are few perfect products. It’s hard to name the “best” or the “healthiest” building products. Usually the best we can do is identify healthier products. There are almost always trade-offs.
Teresa McGrath | March 2019 | Newsletter
Be part of a non-profit organization that is making the world a healthier place. We are seeking an experienced Materials Researcher to contribute to HBN's body of research on building products, chemicals, and related health hazards. Click here for more information or to apply.
HBN | March 2019 | Newsletter
ICYMI - Thank you to Positive Energy’s Building Science podcast for hosting HBN’s Gina Ciganik, CEO, and Billy Weber, Collective Impact Director, to discuss our resources and work towards healthier building products. Tune in here:
Bill Walsh | January 2019 | Newsletter
The powerful new Banksy mural that appeared in a small town in Wales just before Christmas 2018 seems at first to be a timeless and global statement. But like the Dickensian dystopia it evokes, it is also particular to a place and time – Port Talbot, a town situated hard against the Tata Steel mill on Wales’ southwest coast. People, especially those of us who define what healthy buildings and healthy products are, have a right, and an obligation, to know where building products come from, and what life is like there.
Tom Lent and Rebecca Stamm | January 2019 | Newsletter
Manufacturers are sometimes understandably reticent to reveal the “secret sauce” behind their building product formulations. In recent years, however, we have learned that thousands of the substances used in our built environment endanger human and environmental health. Many more substances have yet to be fully evaluated. Only through full public disclosure and assessment of contents and hazards can we identify and solve the problems — in buildings, on worksites, and in communities — created by hazardous substances in building products.
In this article, HBN outlines why the building industry needs to demand full public disclosure of product content and hazard.