Material Health

Pursuing material health in the building industry involves avoiding or eliminating toxic chemicals from building products. Toxic chemicals are those that can bring harm to factory workers, installers, or building occupants. There are tens of thousands of unregulated chemicals used in our building products, and they can increase the risk of everything from asthma to obesity to cancer.

Materials containing these toxic chemicals include carpet, insulation, wet-applied products like adhesives and sealants, and many others. It’s possible to improve material health through better design decisions and product selections.

Material Health

Deep Dives

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  • 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.

  • Making Carpet Environmentally Friendly

    Feature Article

    Carpets are the most popular floorcovering in the U.S., but they have also been associated with environmental problems including indoor air emissions and intensive resource use. However, manufacturers have worked to curb their environmental footprints by recycling carpet, examining their life-cycle impacts, and pursuing broad-based certification.

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

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In The News

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Perspective

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Learning Resources

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