Truce or Surrender at USGBC?

Bill Walsh - September 3, 2014

Last week the US Green Building Council (USGBC) and the American Chemistry Council (ACC) issued a joint press release announcing an unspecified “new initiative designed to ensure the use of sustainable and environmentally protective products in buildings by applying technical and science-based approaches to the LEED green building program.” In an interview with Environmental Building News, a USGBC spokesperson identified a “supply chain optimization working group” as the heart of the new program.  The supply chain optimization working group is not a new initiative, however. It was announced previously in Spring 2013 in a published call for working group members[1], and has been under discussion since the USGBC’s last minute insertion of the “supply chain optimization” credit pathway in LEED v.4 at the behest of the chemical industry.[2]  The working group never achieved liftoff, it appears, because the ACC left the table to wage... Read More

More Vinyl Greenwash

Bill Walsh - June 6, 2014

The replacement of harmful phthalate plasticizers in a growing array of vinyl products is fueling a new rebranding campaign in the vinyl industry. Clean-vinyl and Bio-vinyl are a few of the trade names at the forefront of this campaign to position phthalate-free vinyl as a breakthrough and advanced green product. HBN’s in-depth evaluation of the new phthalate-free formulations reveals that these claims are more than mere overstatements. They’re more greenwash from the vinyl industry. As I wrote last week, our evaluation concludes that the removal of phthalates from vinyl products is a good thing.[1] However, even when viewed in their most positive light, the various reformulations of vinyl have not created a clean vinyl. To the contrary, these modifications underscore the essential problem with vinyl itself — chlorine chemistry. Phthalate plasticizers are needed because the polymer known as vinyl, chlorine-based PVC (polyvinyl chloride) plastic[2], is rigid and... Read More

Making Sense of Phthalate-Free Vinyl

Bill Walsh - May 29, 2014

Today my colleagues in HBN’s Pharos Project have released the first comprehensive analysis of the plasticizers that are replacing phthalates in flexible vinyl building products. The replacement chemicals in phthalate-free vinyl are not always clearly identified by manufacturers. The level of toxicity testing and the testing results vary among the six non-phthalate formulas we found now in use. The HBN analysis will help purchasers evaluate the claims of phthalate-free product lines in order to make informed choices about a wide array of materials including flooring, wall guards and coverings, wire and cabling, upholstery and membrane roofing. PVC (polyvinyl chloride) plastic, also known as vinyl[1], is rigid and brittle in its pure form. Phthalates have long been the chemicals of choice used to achieve the flexibility needed for many uses. Many phthalate plasticizers are known endocrine disrupting chemicals - chemicals that interfere with hormone cell signal pathways... Read More

Time to Close the Europe/US Paint Healthfulness Gap

Jim Vallette - April 10, 2014

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 healthier products for sale here. It is time they did. Troublesome ingredients under fire include: Nonylphenol ethoxylate (NPE) surfactants, which are endocrine-disrupting substances; Triclosan antimicrobials, which can contain high levels of dioxin residuals, and are building up in human bodies and the global environment; Nanoparticles, which have become widespread in paints despite growing concern over the potential health hazards of being exposed to nanoscale materials; and, Semi-volatile organic compounds (SVOCs), many of which are harmful to human health but have not been considered by indoor air quality programs. The... Read More

Buyers Beware: Coal Ash In Building Products

Jim Vallette - January 30, 2014

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 that using coal power plant waste in cement and wallboard poses no risk to human health or the environment. Industry proponents say these reports prove that there is nothing to fear from using these wastes in building products, and that this practice will be absolved when EPA releases its new coal ash regulations in December. Buyers Beware. The stakes are high. The stakes are high for building owners because coal combustion wastes contain numerous hazardous substances including heavy metals such as mercury, arsenic, and cadmium. The hazards associated with coal combustion wastes are passed on to building owners and occupants. If... Read More

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