Antibacterials In Building Products: The Good, The Bad and the Downright Ugly

Davida S. Smyth, PhD - November 19, 2014

Last month’s article by Bill Walsh, “The Dirt on Antimicrobials”, spoke of the recent trend to infuse antimicrobial substances other than antibiotics into building products. I had known that antimicrobial substances were creeping into many consumer items, such as soap, toothpaste, mouthwash, and hand-wipes to name but a few. I did not, however, know the extent to which these substances were finding their way into people’s homes, places of work, offices, hospitals and other environments via “paints, tiles and grouts, carpets, solid surfaces, faucets, elevator buttons and toilet seats.” The lack of study and evidence to support their use in these situations, combined with what we know of bacteria’s capacity to adapt, is extremely worrisome for me -- as a microbiologist and a consumer. In this situation I believe it’s a case of what we don’t know might hurt us! This trend is likely a consequence of people’s fears when it... Read More

The Dirt On Antimicrobials

Bill Walsh - October 15, 2014

The infusion of antimicrobial materials into building products is on the rise.  Manufacturers now routinely add substances such as nano-silver and the pesticide triclosan to paints, tiles and grouts, carpets, solid surfaces, faucets, elevator buttons and toilet seats.  The dirty truth is: they do not make people healthier. They do cause environmental harm throughout their lifecycle. And their overuse, like the overuse of antibiotics, may contribute to the evolution of microbes that are more resistant to our known antimicrobial defenses. The authoritative evidence could not be clearer. One of the most widely used antimicrobials is triclosan, which is sold under trade names such as Microban and BioFresh. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) established its position on these antimicrobials in 2003 after a comprehensive study of infection control practice concluding: “No evidence is available to suggest that use of these [antimicrobial] products will... Read More

It’s Time To Rethink Recycling

Wes Sullens and Jim Vallette - October 10, 2014

Recycling is a deeply embedded principle of green building.  From the beginning of LEED®, recycling has stood by itself as an important attribute of material and waste management credits. These credits, in turn, fueled a huge increase in recycled content in many building materials, from wallboard to concrete to carpet to construction fill. The status quo is about to change.  The green building movement is in the midst of a quantum leap in understanding, during which the collection of information through transparency tools is paramount. Product ingredient data -- collected by systems like the Health Product Declaration, the Pharos Project, Declare and Environmental Product Declarations -- informs the new multi-attribute assessment structure into which LEED® Version 4 and green building in general are moving. The single attribute of recycled content is not necessarily enough anymore. In other words, the more we learn, the more we know that not all recycled... Read More

Constructive Dialogues Begin With Disclosure

Bill Walsh - September 15, 2014

Opponents of content and hazard disclosure tools such as the Pharos Project and the Health Product Declaration frequently raise concerns that this information will incite irrational panic about toxics in buildings.  In fact, to the contrary, there is a growing track record of constructive dialogues between building owners and product manufacturers that result in win-win solutions. This week, The Durst Organization, developer of the first LEED Platinum high-rise, Bank of America Tower at One Bryant Park, is publicly launching an ambitious multi-stakeholder engagement in New York City to “optimize the health and transparency of construction product ecosystems through material research and innovation, process improvements, policy/code evolution, and accessible education.” The Building Product Ecosystems (BPE) project is a partnership initiated by The Durst Organization with City University of New York (CUNY) and Parsons The New School For Design.[1] A hallmark of this... Read More

Truce or Surrender at USGBC?

Bill Walsh - September 3, 2014

Last week the US Green Building Council (USGBC) and the American Chemistry Council (ACC) issued a joint press release announcing an unspecified “new initiative designed to ensure the use of sustainable and environmentally protective products in buildings by applying technical and science-based approaches to the LEED green building program.” In an interview with Environmental Building News, a USGBC spokesperson identified a “supply chain optimization working group” as the heart of the new program.  The supply chain optimization working group is not a new initiative, however. It was announced previously in Spring 2013 in a published call for working group members[1], and has been under discussion since the USGBC’s last minute insertion of the “supply chain optimization” credit pathway in LEED v.4 at the behest of the chemical industry.[2]  The working group never achieved liftoff, it appears, because the ACC left the table to wage... Read More

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