Wednesday, November 11, 2009

"Chemical Blacklist for Designers"

Yesterday reported that the architecture firm Perkins + Will introduced their Chemical Blacklist for designers, listing 25 hazardous chemicals that are commonly used in the building industry. Read the article and view the Perkins + Will Precautionary List.

You can search the list alphabetically, by category, CSI division or health affect. Each entry lists the origin of the chemical, building p
roducts it may be found in and the CSI division of those products, health effects, and alternative materials that can be used. It is very helpful to have this information all in one place, and a great reference for clients and designers alike. When I want to research a chemical or affect, I usually go to the EPA website. Their A-Z index is a great way to find out the current findings about certain materials and their affects.

We strive to use safe products in the homes we design. Although the contractor basically has final say in what is actually ordered, we specify certain products and chemicals that should be avoided. For example, that insulation should have no added formaldeyhyde, which is one of the dangerous chemicals listed on the Precautionary List (under Urea-formaldeyhyde).

No vinyl or formaldehyde in this kid's bedroom: solid wood windows and cabinets finished with non-toxic OSMO

Another consideration is not just the health of the end users, but the health of the producers. Some products, such as vinyl windows, do not pose an air quality risk to the owners (except in the case of a fire, when the fumes can be dangerous), but can very hazardous to those manufacturing vinyl windows or who live around factories. So though vinyl can be touted as a green product because of the energy efficiency, I don't believe it can be because of this hazard. The subject is fascinating and the movie Blue Vinyl is a great overview. It is not the best documentary I've ever seen, but it's a great introduction to the hazards of the manufacturing and lack of ways to recycle vinyl.

A great in-depth book that covers the use of chemicals in the building industry is Deceit and Denial: The Deadly Politics of Industrial Pollution by Gerald Markowitz and David Rosner.

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