Blogs

Take an inside look into emerging markets and trends. Gain valuable new perspectives from HBN experts and our partners. Be inspired to know better.

Could Chemical Exposures Increase Your Chance of Catching a Cold?

HBN | June 2019 | Newsletter

Followers of our work at Healthy Building Network are well-versed in the broad range of impacts that chemical exposures can have on our health. Many chemicals that are common in building materials have been linked to cancer, asthma, and effects on the endocrine system.1 Did you also know that more and more studies suggest links between exposure to certain chemicals and our immune systems’ ability to fight infectious diseases? Or that chemicals may contribute to stronger, more antibiotic-resistant bacteria?


"Tens of Millions of Pounds of Phthalates Annually Eliminated from Vinyl Flooring"

HBN | June 2019 | Newsletter

Phthalates (thay-lates) are chemicals used to make vinyl soft and pliable for uses such as roofing membrane, wall covering and flooring. Healthy Building Network began a campaign to remove these chemicals from building products in our seminal 2002 report, Environmental Impacts of PVC Building materials. In 2005 we reported that researchers had demonstrated a link between a mother’s exposure to phthalates and genital deformities in male offspring. Soon phthalates began to be banned from children’s products, though not building products. In 2014 we published a positive assessment of available Phthalate Free Plasticizers in PVC. The next year, after extensive negotiations with the Mind The Store Campaign, a coalition of environmental health groups including HBN, The Home Depot led the big box industry in banning these chemicals from the vinyl flooring sold at retail. This week these groups announced that independent testing of product on the shelves of The Home Depot, Lowes and Lumber Liquidators has confirmed the successful elimination of these toxic compounds from vinyl flooring sold there. Read More


All Together Now: Class-based Approach to Chemical Regulation Helps Avoid Hazardous Flame Retardants

HBN | June 2019 | Newsletter

For years, Healthy Building Network has championed a class-based approach to chemical regulation because the alternative, regulating chemicals one at a time, often leads to regrettable substitutions. We are excited to report that a recent National Academies of Science report supports this approach towards regulating organohalogen flame retardants, and that we have incorporated their findings into Pharos and the Data Commons.


HBN’s Transformation Targets: A better way to prioritize chemicals of concern.

HBN | May 2019 | Newsletter

We often hear that one of the greatest challenges to architects, designers, and building owners is navigating the plethora of certifications, standards, restricted substances lists (RSLs), and competing priorities. In fact, HBN’s Pharos database identified over 300. Heavy reliance on RSLs can lead to regrettable substitution (a different chemical replacement with the similar or worse toxicity or impacts). HBN took up the challenge, to move beyond the limitations of RSLs, and to help focus the entire industry on one (maybe two) chemical compound groups at a time per product type that are ripe for transformation, and to amplify our collective energies to replace these chemicals with fully disclosed, fully assessed safer alternatives. 


Healthy Building Network Receives 2019 Design for Humanity Award

HBN | May 2019 | Newsletter

Healthy Building Network has been honored as the national 2019 Design for Humanity award recipient from the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID). In celebrating an institution for having made significant contributions to improving the environment for humanity through projects that transform lives, this award recognizes the far-reaching impact of HBN’s work.


Research Team Expertise Grows at HBN

HBN | May 2019 | Newsletter

Under the leadership of Teresa McGrath, HBN’s Chief Research Officer, our research team is expanding staff and services. HBN continues to serve as a trusted source of translation and interpretation in the building product industry and beyond. We are more equipped than ever to support informed decision-making for selecting products that contribute to a healthier world.


Emissions from Carpet Tiles Sickens Three Minnesota Workers

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.


HomeFree Campus: Online Classes for Selecting Healthier, Affordable Products

HBN | April 2019 | Newsletter

Are you constructing or remodeling a space and want to learn why and how to select healthier products? Healthy Building Network is excited to announce the launch of the HomeFree Campus, an online education resource that provides simple, science-based information that can help you select affordable, healthier materials. 

Learning with HomeFree will support you and your team in the following ways:

  • Building core awareness and understanding — why do healthy materials matter for you, your residents, installers, and the environment?
  • Providing guidance for selecting healthier building products; know what to ask.

The Next Challenge in Indoor Air Quality: SVOCs

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. 


Lauren Heine Joins MaterialWise, Enhancing Science, Data and Collaboration Capabilities

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.