Materials Optimization Starts at the Intersection of Human Health and Recycling

Wes Sullens - April 29, 2015

On Earth Day my organization (StopWaste) and the Healthy Building Network published the first in a series of in-depth studies of common feedstocks found in many recycled content building products: Post-Consumer Polyvinyl Chloride in Building Products. These reports are part of a new initiative we have undertaken along with the San Francisco Department of the Environment to identify options for enhancing recycled content value, fostering longer material reuse cycles, and improving environmental and human health. It can be a challenge to square two important goals: 1) increase recycling, and 2) protect human health and the environment, given the amount of toxic chemicals currently in some recycled feedstocks. However, it also presents a great opportunity as evidence shows that cleaning up recycled feedstocks increases industry interest in those feedstocks and ultimately increases their diversion from landfills and incinerators. Our case study of recycled polyvinyl chloride (PVC, or... Read More

Recycled Vinyl Can Reintroduce Chemical Hazards Into Building Products

Jim Vallette - April 22, 2015

Today’s announcement by Home Depot that it will require manufacturers to phase out phthalate plasticizers from all of the vinyl flooring products it sells was the latest in a long history of efforts to eliminate hazardous additives from vinyl building products. But this does not mean that all phthalate-free vinyl floors (and other PVC products) are now free of potential concerns for building occupants. Healthy Building Network (HBN) research found that recycled PVC used in building products usually contains legacy toxic hazards like lead, cadmium, and phthalates. (PVC is short for polyvinyl chloride, or “vinyl.”) We reveal this and more in our new report, Post-Consumer Polyvinyl Chloride in Building Products, published today. HBN examined the supply chain for vinyl flooring. We discovered that post-consumer PVC used in flooring is more likely to come from insulation jackets stripped from old cables and wires than from discarded vinyl flooring.[1] These jackets... Read More

Home Depot Will Eliminate Phthalates from Vinyl Flooring

Bill Walsh - April 22, 2015

Home Depot, the world’s largest purchaser of building products, announced today that by the end of this year it will eliminate phthalate plasticizers from the vinyl flooring it sells. Phthalates are endocrine disrupting chemicals that have been banned in children’s products since 2008 but are still widely used in a wide range of vinyl products to make them flexible. The announcement came after lengthy negotiations led by the Mind The Store Campaign, a grassroots effort supported by the Healthy Building Network’s cutting-edge research on building products.  Mind The Store is challenging the country’s largest retailers to restrict 100 hazardous chemicals in the products they sell. Also today, the Mind The Store campaign released a report identifying phthalates and other chemical hazards detected in vinyl flooring products. The Healthy Building Network (HBN) first addressed the issue of phthalate substitution in polyvinyl chloride (PVC or... Read More

New SFI Standards Still Fail To Protect Forests

Bill Walsh - February 9, 2015

The Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) has released its newly revised 2015-2019 Standards and Rules. Promoted as an “important advancement,” the revised standards appear to do little to address the longstanding complaints of leading environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, Friends of the Earth and the Rainforest Action Network. These groups consider the timber industry-founded, financed and governed SFI system little more than greenwash.[1] According to a preliminary analysis by long-time SFI watchdog ForestEthics, the revised SFI standards still fail to advance meaningful reform of industrial forestry practices, including some that violate the rights of indigenous peoples, decimate wildlife and habitat, degrade water quality, poison surrounding communities with toxic herbicides, and convert forests to other land uses. Key deficiencies that persist in the new SFI standards include:  Failure to require meaningful... Read More

15 Years of HBN

Bill Walsh - December 17, 2014

In 2015 the Healthy Building Network will celebrate its 15th anniversary as the green building movement’s leader in health and transparency. With your help we are steadily reducing the use of toxic chemicals in our buildings by transforming the way building products are evaluated and made. Thank you! To celebrate our 15th Anniversary we are asking our supporters to consider making a $15 monthly pledge on our website, a one-time gift of $150, or donating whatever is possible for you this year. Consider what we have accomplished in the past 15 years: In 2003, an HBN campaign resulted in eliminating one of the largest sources of arsenic exposure to children, replacing an arsenic-based formula for pressure treated wood with safer alternatives and dropping arsenic use in the US by 80%! In 2004, we began advocating against the use of vinyl building products that contain phthalate plasticizers due to the growing body of scientific research linking phthalates to childhood... Read More

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