Asthmagens in Building Materials: The Problem & Solutions
Asthma is a complex, heterogeneous disease, often of multifactorial origin. Asthma rates in the USA have been rising since at least 1980. These rates are rising despite the proliferation of asthma control strategies, including indoor air quality programs. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that the number of people diagnosed with asthma grew by 4.3 million during the last decade. Nearly 26 million people are affected by chronic asthma, including over eight million children. As asthma affects more people, new strategies need to be considered. Among asthma risk factors, health organizations have identified hundreds of substances that can cause the onset of asthma. Many of these asthmagens are common ingredients of building products like insulation, paints, adhesives, wall panels and floors. This paper identifies asthmagens found in building products, how people can be exposed to these substances, and what is known and yet-to-be known about the impacts of these exposures. Key strategies to minimize exposures to asthmagens in building materials include understanding the composition of building materials; using product ingredient disclosure tools such as those recognized in LEED v4; and, modifying product certification standards, restricted substance lists, indoor environmental testing protocols, and green building incentives.