Avoiding Toxic Chemicals

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.

Avoiding Toxic Chemicals

Deep Dives

Get up to speed on complex topics. You can also earn CEUs and download PDF Spotlight Reports.


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  • Polystyrene Insulation: Does It Belong in a Green Building?

    Feature Article

    Polystyrene is widely used as a rigid insulation in North America, offering high insulation values, moisture resistance, strength, and affordability. But a flame retardant in the material, as well as its life-cycle impacts, raise questions about whether it should be used at all.

  • The Living Building Challenge: Can It Really Change the World?

    Feature Article

    The Living Building Challenge, with its stringent, all-or-nothing requirements, is out to change the way we build. But is it actually achievable?

  • Making Air Barriers that Work: Why and How to Tighten Up Buildings

    Feature Article

    Incorporating a continuous air barrier into a building's design and construction can save energy and improve the indoor environment, among other benefits. The right materials and assemblies can help accomplish that goal, but careful attention during design and close oversight during construction are essential.

  • Antimicrobial Chemicals in Buildings: Hygiene or Harm?

    Feature Article

    Carpets, door handles, and a myriad of other building products now contain pesticides targeting fungi and bacteria, offering potential benefit to the indoor environment, but also raising health concerns. This article asks whether antimicrobial products live up to their marketing claims and whether relying on them is a sound path to a hygienic environment.

Quick Takes

Jump straight to the essentials with these short explanations of green building concepts.


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  • Radon Risks and Prevention

    Primer

    Radon, the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S., can get into our homes and bodies without us knowing it-and its presence doesn't depend on geology or locale.

  • PBT Chemicals-Persistent, Bioaccumulative, Toxic

    Primer

    You've heard of persistent toxic chemicals, and bioaccumulation, but what do these things really mean, and what do they do?

  • Chromium-6: Health and Life-Cycle Hazards

    Primer

    Chrome-plated and stainless-steel products may not expose us directly to the hazards of hexavalent chromium, but their life cycle releases it into the environment.

  • 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.

Product Guidance

Unbiased information from our product experts helps you separate green from greenwash.


In The News

We break news down to the essentials and provide expert analysis.


Perspective

Thought-provoking opinions from the most trusted minds in sustainability.


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Learning Resources

A wide range of education options, with automatic reporting for AIA and GBCI.


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Just For Fun

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