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Getting Flame Retardants Out of Foam Insulation

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The Yosemite Environmental Education Center is being designed by Siegel & Strain Architects to avoid the use of foam insulation due to concerns about flame retardants.

But the epiphany had to do with the insulation material that they were planning to specify. “We were working on the project when we heard Arlene [Blum] talk about flame retardants,” Strain recalls, referring to a leader in the movement to address the health and environmental impacts of the chemicals used to make many everyday materials less flammable. “It was an eye opener.” For Siegel & Strain, learning that the flame retardants used in most rigid insulation materials bioaccumulate—get into the environment and don’t go away—put these materials into a whole different category of risk compared with other products their firm tries to avoid. (See “PBT Chemicals: Persistent, Bioaccumulative, Toxic,” EBN Sept. 2011.)

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