Avoiding Toxic Chemicals

OVERVIEW

There are tens of thousands of unregulated chemicals used in our building products, so how do you know which ones are hazardous?

These articles look at some of the most-toxic chemicals, why they are hazardous, which product groups contain them, and alternatives to using them.

You’ll learn about:

  • the burgeoning green chemistry movement

  • tools like Health Product Declarations that tell us what’s in products

  • formaldehyde

  • polyvinyl chloride

  • bisphenol-A

  • flame retardants

  • perfluorinated compounds (PFCs)

We also offer guidance on design decisions that can reduce or eliminate the need for many of these problematic compounds.

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  • The Precautionary Principle

    Primer

    The precautionary principle employs "guilty until proven innocent" methodology, and suggests that we should avoid using questionable chemicals and materials until we know they're safe.

  • Synthetic Gypsum

    Primer

    Synthetic gypsum, used in drywall, is chemically the same as virgin gypsum but is created from a byproduct of coal-fired power plants. Are designer and contractor concerns about heavy metal contamination justified?

  • Brominated Flame Retardants

    Primer

    Keeping furnishings, appliances, and building materials from catching fire and burning up is important, but many flame retardants aren't good for us or the environment.

  • Using Fly Ash in Concrete

    Primer

    Fly ash lowers the environmental footprint of concrete and improves durability. Pouring and curing concrete with high levels of fly ash requires special treatment.

  • All About Formaldehyde

    Primer

    A naturally occurring organic compound used in binders for composite wood products, among other things, formaldehyde can create serious health problems in those exposed to high concentrations.

  • Volatile Organic Compounds: Definitions Matter

    Primer

    Because of how air-quality regulators define VOCs, judging a product's contribution to indoor air quality using only VOC content can be misleading.