From NIMBY to Now in Everyone’s Backyard

Jim Vallette - June 23, 2016

When one waste disposal option closes, another inevitably opens.  A half-century ago, the federal government started regulating solid wastes and preventing rampant dumping in the woods, ocean, and unlined dumps. Then the so-called Not-In-My-Backyard (NIMBY) movement of the 1970s and 1980s prevented scores of landfills and incinerators from being permitted across the country, just as existing disposal sites were reaching capacity. There were also spectacular failures at waste sites that made headlines. Coal ash ponds failed, releasing contaminated waste into rivers and drinking water. Giant piles of tires caught on fire, and came to symbolize the crisis of growing piles of waste.  In response, environmental agencies partnered with waste generators like the coal power and tire industries to find ways to reduce the amount of their wastes going to landfills. The US Environmental Protection Agency developed an option called “beneficial use,” in which these... Read More

Risky Business: Undermining the LEED Material Credit

Tom Lent - May 25, 2016

They did it again. The American Chemistry Council (ACC) has pushed another greenwashing credit option into LEED. The new Building Material Human Hazard & Exposure Assessment Pilot Credit developed “by USGBC in conjunction with the American Chemistry Council (ACC) and its members,”[1] represents perhaps the most audacious effort to date by the ACC to neutralize LEED’s leadership in improving material health in building products. The Credit ignores some of the highest concern chemical hazards (including neurotoxicants, endocrine disruptors and persistent bioaccumulative toxicants). It allows the manufacturer to make up their own proprietary risk assessment protocol for the remaining health endpoints, ignore data gaps and uncertainties, and bury the whole thing in an undisclosed black box.  The credit requires just two manufacturers to go through this exercise for a total of five products to get the LEED point.[2] It is being touted as a contribution to... Read More

Take Action for Healthier Building Materials

Tom Lent - March 30, 2016

The Healthy Building Network just posted two articles in our Pharos Signal blog asking readers to take specific actions that can really help bring healthier materials into building products.   In the first, "Toxic Insulation, Certified? Green Seal Needs to Hear From You," we ask you to submit comments to Green Seal, a leading green product certification program, regarding its new draft standard for building insulation.   HBN is concerned to see Green Seal taking a lower road than LEED on sustainable forestry issues and providing generous exemptions for some of the most toxic substances used in insulation products today. Green Seal's deadline for comments is Thursday, March 31, so please give it some thought, and let them (and us) know what you think. [UPDATE: Comment period has been extended through APRIL 7]   In the second, "HBN Partnering with Cradle to Cradle for Hazard Screening," I invite you to take a look at the... Read More

East of Flint, One Company Defiantly Continues To Produce Lead Pigments

Jim Vallette - February 18, 2016

If you are outraged by the lead poisoning of children in Flint, Michigan, take a look at what's happening just 250 miles to the east in Toronto, where a Canadian company continues to produce lead compounds and distribute them worldwide for use in paints and plastics. Long after most of us have thought lead pigments were no longer in commerce, Dominion Colour continues to manufacture, for export, large volumes of them. Dominion is the world's largest producer of lead pigments, and it is fighting to maintain its toxic trade. The company is trying get an exemption from a European Union ban on two lead pigments, sparking outrage from global public health groups including the European Environmental Bureau, Occupational Knowledge International,, and the international NGO network IPEN. [1] Last year, according to shipping records examined by the Healthy Building Network, Dominion Colour exported over 950 metric tons (that's over two... Read More

Does Your Paint Contain Cobalt Mined By Children In The #DRC?

Jim Vallette - February 5, 2016

Amnesty International recently reported on the connection between popular consumer products and cobalt mined by young children in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Their research “exposes the need for transparency, without which multinationals can profit from human-rights abuses like child labor without checking where and how the raw materials in their products are mined.” [1] Amnesty’s investigation focused on the cobalt supply chain that leads to batteries used in computers, electric cars, and mobile phones. But common building and construction products, like paint, natural oil stains, and countertops, also are major end users of cobalt, often from the same suppliers used by smartphone manufacturers. This Is What We Die For documents the horrors of mining cobalt in the southern DRC. This region produces half of the world's cobalt. [2] Artisanal miners (defined as those... Read More

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