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Welcome, Greenbuild attendees, to the Asthma Corridor

James Vallette | October 21, 2014 | Materials

The 2014 Greenbuild conference and exhibition is happening at the mouth of what has long been described as America’s Cancer Corridor.  Petrochemical plants line the Mississippi River between New Orleans, host to this year’s Greenbuild, and Baton Rouge, the state capital.    Here, multinational corporations have pro...


Time to Close the Europe/US Paint Healthfulness Gap

James Vallette | April 10, 2014 | Policies

Changes as significant as the elimination of lead and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are rolling over the paint industry. Leading global paint companies are removing four classes of toxic ingredients from products sold in Europe in order to qualify for valued ecolabels. Many of the same companies dominate the US market, but do not offer these he...


Made in the USA: A Healthy Choice for Ceramic Tiles

James Vallette | April 02, 2014 | Materials

When purchasing ceramic wall or flooring tiles, focus on products made in the USA.  Not only will you help staunch the exodus of the ceramic tile industry to other continents, you will probably avoid bringing toxic heavy metals into your building project.

That is the main conclusion from our research into the ceramic tile industry, which c...


Dust in the Wind: EPA’s Vacuous Review of Coal Waste in Building Products

James Vallette | February 28, 2014 | Policies

The EPA’s ongoing review of coal combustion wastes’ regulatory status would seem like a great opportunity to explore essential questions about the safety of bringing coal wastes into a wide range of interior building materials. But, any hopes for that kind of investigation crashed to earth with the EPA’s new report, Coal Combust...


Buyers Beware: Coal Ash In Building Products

James Vallette | January 30, 2014 | Materials

Shortly after HBN published this newsletter, the US EPA released a new report, Coal Combustion Residual Beneficial Use Evaluation: Fly Ash Concrete and FGD Gypsum Wallboard (February 2014). Click here to read Jim Vallette's analysis of this document. News reports this week are citing two new EPA-funded studies of coal ash as conclusive proof th...


From Green to Homeless: One Man’s Battles with SPF Insulation

James Vallette | June 20, 2013 | Materials

Richard Beyer of East Lyme, Connecticut, provides a great example of how one person can change the building industry (with a little help from the Pharos Project). After a bad spray polyurethane foam (SPF) insulation installation sickened him and his family, Mr. Beyer researched these products on Pharos. As we have been reporting in the...


Where the Rubber Meets the Road in Building Products

James Vallette | April 24, 2013 | Materials

The benefits of recycling old tires are obvious. It saves energy. It avoids new or additional toxic manufacturing inputs. Recycling also forestalls landfilling tire waste. Tire dumps pollute groundwater and can catch fire and smolder for months or even years.

But there is a flip side to this equation that has, to date, been poorly considered: ti...


Toxic truths in my island’s air

James Vallette | March 26, 2013 | Materials

One of my favorite snowshoeing routes here in Acadia National Park passes a weather station on McFarland Hill.  I have always loved tracking the weather, so of course it is fun to look at the equipment.

Over the years, watching the weather has become a grimmer hobby, as our shoreline gets chewed away by storms of increasing intensity, the...


Market transformation as seen, and acted upon, by a manufacturer

James Vallette | March 22, 2013 | Materials

This week, Pharos opened its latest category of product evaluations: wall protection.  These products, generally used in interior high traffic areas to protect corners, walls, and doors, are a microcosm of the wider building materials marketplace. Manufacturers are shifting away from problematic plastics, like PVC, and are finding themselves...


Pharos research path leads to most polluting facility in country: US Magnesium

James Vallette | March 15, 2013 | Materials

Flying over the Great Salt Lake, en route to last year’s Greenbuild, I spied a massive industrial facility above the lake’s southern flank. It was a surreal mix of briny discharge ponds and bronze stacks of smoke and slag.  Of course, I wondered what this was. This week, I came upon this plant again, in the normal course of doi...