Take Action for Transparency in Building Materials

Overview

More than ever, building product manufacturers are using transparency tools like the Health Product Declaration (HPD) and the Pharos Project to disclose the chemical contents and related health and environmental hazards in their products.

But powerful, global, chemical companies are working individually, and in concert as members of trade associations and other industrial alliances, against this essential transformation to a truly transparent marketplace.

Through this website, Healthy Building Network is tracking the key initiatives and institutional players that either prevent or promote toxic chemicals and transparency in the building material marketplace.

Consumers are challenging the logic behind industry’s attempts to conceal the presence of chemicals of concern in their products. Many companies agree with these consumers. They understand their long-term economic prospects require innovation and transparency.

As the number of building material manufacturers supporting transparency grows, the chemical industry is pushing back with increasing fervor. It is spending millions of dollars lobbying against healthy building initiatives at the federal level.

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) and other major industry trade associations recently formed a new supergroup called the American High-Performance Building Coalition to intensify lobbying against LEED® and the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). Their number one target: the proposed Pilot Credit 54 in LEED v4, that would reward building material specifications that are transparent and avoid chemicals of concern. Seeing a challenge to the status quo, chemical industry associations and corporations are lobbying Congress to eliminate LEED requirements from federal building projects. If successful their efforts would deal a serious blow to LEED and the USGBC.

Building product manufacturers need to hear from you, their customers.

On this webpage, you will find essential information about these issues, the key players, and ways you can grow the momentum for transparency and chemicals avoidance in building materials.

“As the U.S. Green Building Council has become more successful, we’ve developed our share of enemies: people willing to do just about anything to defend their status quo at our expense -- even if it means polluting the environment, subjecting the most vulnerable among us to cancer-causing carcinogens, and regularly prioritizing financial gain over human lives.”

Rick Fedrizzi, President/CEO, USGBC in Huffington Post

Take Action

It’s time for building product manufacturers to listen to their customers. If you are an architect, designer or specifier, let manufacturers know that you are concerned about toxic chemicals in building products — and want to know what chemicals and other materials are in the building products you specify. Explain that chemical hazards and related health concerns are important to you and your clients.

So, as you tour the halls at Greenbuild 2012 this week, or meet with manufacturer representatives at any time, please press them on these critical issues:

  • Does your company support the full disclosure of product material contents, including chemicals of concern?
  • Does your company support the LEED v4 credit for toxic chemical disclosure and avoidance?
  • Does your company have its products evaluated in the Pharos Project?
  • Does your company support the Health Product Declaration and intend to use it?

Please stop by our Greenbuild booth (3879N) or send us an email at info@healthybuilding.net to let us know what you find out.

If you are a product manufacturer and would like to share with us your perspectives on these matters, or get more information about the Pharos Project and the Health Product Declaration, please send us an email at info@healthybuilding.net or visit www.pharosproject.net.

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) is on the offensive against the proposed LEED v4 chemical disclosure and avoidance credits. However, the ACC does not represent a unified front of all businesses with an interest in green building and healthy building materials. If you are a business leader, the American Sustainable Business Coalition is asking that you write to the GSA in support of LEED® and the disclosure and avoidance credits.

Directory of Key Issues

“The USGBC LEED v4 is acknowledging that this movement to avoid chemicals of concern is an important part of the sustainability of a building; it would reward both disclosure of chemicals in products and avoidance of chemicals of concern in its new credits.”

American Sustainable Business Coalition

These proposed credits provoked a hard-edged response from the ACC. Industry lobbying by ACC heavyweights like BASF and ExxonMobil motivated 56 members of Congress to sign a letter to the General Services Administration (GSA). The letter asks GSA to stop using the LEED® rating system in government buildings.

Despite the chemical industry’s demands to back down, the GSA is doubling down on LEED®. On its website, last revised on Sept. 17, 2012, GSA states that “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) remains the most credible rating system available to meet GSA’s needs.”

The ACC does not represent a unified front of all businesses with an interest in green building and healthy building materials. If you are a business leader, the American Sustainable Business Coalition is asking that you write to the GSA in support of LEED® and the disclosure and avoidance credits.

For over thirty years, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) has facilitated an opaque regulatory environment. Under TSCA, ACC members have wide leeway to slap “confidential business information” labels on their chemicals. The statute allows chemicals to be sold with little to no testing for human health or other hazards. It leaves consumers in total darkness about both material contents and the potential hazards posed by those contents to human health and the environment.

In July 2012, a U.S. Senate committee approved historic legislation, the Safe Chemicals Act, to overhaul TSCA. The Safe Chemicals Act demonstrates growing momentum for controlling toxic commerce. It would replace TSCA with a system that reverses the burden of proof and requires testing of chemicals before they enter the market.

The main opponent of the Safe Chemicals Act: the ACC. The chair of the ACC, Cal Dooley, calls it “an extreme proposal.”

The two largest processors of coal power plant waste used in building materials - Boral Material Technologies and Headwaters Resources - are suing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over its indecision about regulating their products.

Widely used in carpet backing, fly ash products are the byproduct of burning coal. EPA is investigating concerns about coal ash. A 2010 EPA study of Metals in Air Pollution Control Residues from Coal-Fired Power Plants subjected fly ash and FGD (flue gas desulferization) residue samples from 34 different coal fired power plants to multi point leachate tests. The study found that significant numbers of samples exceeded a variety of regulatory toxicity thresholds for heavy metals such as arsenic, barium, chromium and selenium and concluded that the standard single point tests frequently used in the industry are of lmited value.

In October 2012, the EPA filed a motion to dismiss the Boral and Headwaters suits.

At the same time, the coal ash marketing industry is trying to expand its value in green building rating systems. They are asking various certifying organizations to reclassify fly ash from being a post-industrial material to being post-consumer. Such a decision would automatically double the value of fly ash in LEED® credit ratings.

In August 2012, one certifying body, NSF International, designated "Celceram" — Boral's trade name for fly ash used as filler in carpet backings — as a 100% post-consumer product. But, in November 2012, the organization reversed course.

NSF International's statement said it "has retracted verification of the claim that Boral Material Technologies fly ash is a post-consumer material. Historically fly ash has been classified as a pre-consumer waste."

To its credit, Boral has fully participated in the Pharos Project. The Pharos evaluation for Celceram is rated "complete."

Boral and Headwaters are members of the American Coal Ash Association, which in turn is a member of the American High-Performance Building Coalition.

Directory of Transparency Leaders

Leadership in: Pharos Project disclosure, Health Product Declaration pilot participant

Leadership in: Pharos Project disclosure

Leadership in: Pharos Project disclosure

Leadership in: Health Product Declaration pilot participant

Leadership in: Health Product Declaration pilot participant

While working toward EPDs, ASSA ABLOY realized that the human health impacts of building products were not adequately addressed. The HPD fills that gap and offers our clients one document that fulfills all of their materials ingredient reporting requirements. I was also extremely pleased to see the HPD called out in LEED v4. We are proud to be a Founding Sponsor of this effort to improve product transparency.

Aaron Smith, ASSA Abloy

Leadership in: Pharos Project disclosure

Leadership in: Pharos Project disclosure

Leadership in: Pharos Project disclosure

Leadership in: Pharos Project disclosure

Leadership in: Pharos Project disclosure

Leadership in: Pharos Project disclosure

Leadership in: Pharos Project disclosure

Leadership in: Pharos Project disclosure

Leadership in: Health Product Declaration pilot participant

Leadership in: Pharos Project disclosure

Leadership in: Pharos Project disclosure

Leadership in: Pharos Project disclosure

Leadership in: Pharos Project disclosure

Leadership in: Pharos Project disclosure

Leadership in: Pharos Project disclosure

Forbo welcomes and fully supports this HPD pilot as the important next step in improved transparency of the products used in the built environment.

Dennis Darragh, Forbo
GAF

Leadership in: Pharos Project disclosure

As North America’s largest roofing manufacturer, GAF is pleased to include its Everguard TPO in the development of the new Health Product Declaration.

Marty Grohman, GAF

Leadership in: Pharos Project disclosure

Leadership in: Pharos Project disclosure

Leadership in: Health Product Declaration pilot participant

Leadership in: Pharos Project disclosure, Health Product Declaration pilot participant

“As product transparency becomes the norm, the marketplace can evolve past vague and green washed claims, and the confusing tangle of green certifications, allowing comparable product data to rule the day.”

Lindsay James and Mikhail Davis, InterfaceFLOR in GreenBiz

Leadership in: Pharos Project disclosure

Leadership in: Pharos Project disclosure

Leadership in: Health Product Declaration pilot participant

Leadership in: Pharos Project disclosure

Leadership in: Health Product Declaration pilot participant

Leadership in: Health Product Declaration pilot participant

Leadership in: Pharos Project disclosure

Leadership in: Pharos Project disclosure

Leadership in: Pharos Project disclosure

“[Pharos] makes it impossible for manufacturers to falsify information. We need more initiatives like this.”

Erika Marcoux, Mondo

Leadership in: Health Product Declaration pilot participant

Leadership in: Pharos Project disclosure

Leadership in: Pharos Project disclosure

In November 2012, NSF International retracted its verification of a claim that fly ash is a post-consumer material.

Leadership in: Pharos Project disclosure

Leadership in: Pharos Project disclosure

Leadership in: Pharos Project disclosure

Leadership in: Pharos Project disclosure

Leadership in: Pharos Project disclosure

Leadership in: Pharos Project disclosure

Leadership in: Pharos Project disclosure

Leadership in: Health Product Declaration pilot participant

The Health Product Declaration will serve to bridge a materials information gap and stimulate conversations between construction material producers, owners, designers and specifiers. As a manufacturer’s point person for disclosure and conformance documentation, I’ve seen a distinct need for a unified reporting framework that helps everyone involved work towards improving the built environment. PROSOCO is proud to be a Founding Sponsor of the HPD Collaborative.

Dwayne Fuhlhage, PROSOCO

Leadership in: Pharos Project disclosure

SCS

SCS has declined to certify fly ash as post-consumer material, despite industry pressure.

Leadership in: Health Product Declaration pilot participant

Leadership in: Pharos Project disclosure

Leadership in: Health Product Declaration pilot participant

Stego Industries proudly supports the Health Product Declaration Collaborative. The HPD format provides a uniform template for manufacturers to publish product ingredients, promoting transparency in the industry. HPDs will help designers make informed, holistic product decisions leading to healthy indoor building environments.

Matt McMonagle, Stego Industries, LLC

Leadership in: Pharos Project disclosure, Health Product Declaration pilot participant

“Health Product Declarations (HPDs) are a next step to ensuring complete accountability for our industry’s environmental claims. HPDs will complement Tandus Flooring’s Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) and provide stakeholders with a full, transparent assessment of our flooring products.”

Lynn Preston, Tandus Flooring

Leadership in: Health Product Declaration pilot participant

Leadership in: Pharos Project disclosure

Leadership in: Pharos Project disclosure

The Underwriters Laboratory has declined to certify fly ash as post-consumer material, despite industry pressure.

Leadership in: Pharos Project disclosure

Leadership in: Pharos Project disclosure

Leadership in: Pharos Project disclosure, Health Product Declaration pilot participant

“As a company we’re trying to provide more information to people to make more informed decisions when choosing their building products. We're dedicated to sustainability and we made a conscious decision to be more transparent.”

Anthony Woytek, Product Development Specialist for Wilsonart, on his company’s decision to participate with Pharos

Leadership in: Pharos Project disclosure

Directory of Toxics Supporters

3M

Member of: ACC, Society of the Plastics Industry, USGBC
Exhibitor at Greenbuild EXPO 2012

3M lobbies on “science-based environmental regulatory reform, climate change legislation, TSCA reform and green chemistry” issues in the U.S. House, Senate and EPA. (Second and third quarter 2012 filings, US Senate Lobbying Database)

In 2011, Mother Jones reported on chemical corporate donations to the Susan G Komen for the Cure foundation. The article examines statements by the Komen that “dismiss links between the common chemical Bisphenol A (BPA) and breast cancer, even while funding research that explores that possible connection... 3M, maker of Scotch Tape, has donated more than $1 million since 2007 and is a member of the American Chemistry Council, a powerful trade group that argues that BPA is safe.”

Member of: ACC, USGBC

In 2010, the three companies that manufacture brominated flame retardants — Albemarle, Chemtura and IC-LTD Industrial Products (Dead Sea Bromine) — created a fake grassroots campaign, Citizens for Fire Safety, as a front group for their multimillion-dollar campaign to defeat regulatory reforms in California and other states.

In the fall of 2012, the companies disbanded “Citizens for Fire Safety”. This followed a Chicago Tribune four-part series documenting the collusion between US chemical companies and Big Tobacco to promote the widespread use of toxic flame retardants (now widely used in building products and furnishings) that don't even reduce fire threats, but do greatly increase health threats from endocrine-disrupting chemicals in American children. The Columbia Journalism Review hailed the Tribune series as an “outstanding investigation” of “a decades-long campaign of deception” that “manipulated scientific findings” with “flaws so basic they violate central tenets of science,” and created a “phony consumer watchdog,” a “front” that has “misrepresented itself.” New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristoff called it “a case study of everything that is wrong with money politics.”

Member of: Society of the Plastics Industry, USGBC
Exhibitor at Greenbuild EXPO 2012.

Member of: AHPBC, USGBC

The ACC spends over $10 million a year on federal lobbying to advance its ambitious agenda. This year, the ACC added “Federal Government Use of Green Building Standards, Including LEED” to the menu. Other ACC lobbying issues include the Safe Chemicals Act, Bisphenol A, Dioxin, Formaldehyde, Hexavalent Chromium, and Phthalates.

Member of: AHPBC

Thomas Adams, Executive Director of the American Coal Ash Association, said in 2012, “Our worst fears are being confirmed. The ongoing regulatory uncertainty and a drumbeat of misleading publicity about the toxicity of coal ash are combining to cause decreases in the beneficial use of the material.”

AHPBC claims that the LEED revision process is not transparent or consensus-based. But the real goal of the AHPBC and its members is to prevent LEED credits that would encourage (but not require) the disclosure of chemical ingredients in building products, and the avoidance of some endocrine-disrupting chemicals including some phthalates and flame retardants. And these credits would reward products whose ingredients have been assessed for chemical hazards. The transparent, consensus-based process used by the USGBC is not producing the outcomes that these trade associations want, and usually get, on Capitol Hill.

Member of: AHPBC

According to its US Senate lobbying disclosures, in 2012, the American Supply Association “advocated support for Senate letter to GSA regarding LEED standards.”

Member of: ACC, VI, SPI, USGBC

In 2012, France’s largest chemicals producer lobbied the US Congress and EPA on “TSCA Reauthorization, the Safe Chemicals Act of 2011, Science and Risk Assessment, and Issues related to LEED and Green Building Standards.”

Member of: RFCI, USGBC
Greenbuild EXPO 2012 exhibitor

Member of: ACC, SPI, USGBC
Greenbuild EXPO 2012 exhibitor

BASF, the world’s largest diversified chemical company, seems to value public relations with the green building movement. It built the largest display on the 2012 Greenbuild EXPO floor. Its friendly representatives routinely participate in green building conferences and leading-edge roundtable discussions.

And in October 2012, the German company announced that its North American headquarters building “has officially become the fifth construction project in the United States and the first in New Jersey to achieve LEED® double Platinum certification.”

Behind the glitz churns a chemical production powerhouse. It produces raw materials that are under heavy scrutiny by environmental regulators in North America and Europe. Among its products: phthalates and isocyanates.

Little wonder, then, that there is a flip side to BASF’s politics. The ACC is leading the industry backlash against the proposed LEED credits for toxic chemical avoidance and product transparency. And in 2011, the ACC awarded BASF its Political Leadership Prize.

BASF’s own lobbyists are also directly involved: According to its second quarter 2012 lobbying disclosure form, BASF lobbied US House and Senate members about “U.S. Green Building Council LEED certification and draft requiring disclosure/avoidance of chemical products. Issue of General Services Administration recognition of LEED standards in light of draft.”

Member of: ACC, SPI, USGBC

Bayer is the world’s top producer of Bisphenol-A. And it asserts the “firm belief that there is currently no reasonable scientific basis for any health or safety concerns” about Bisphenol-A.

Bayer routinely lobbies the U.S. Congress on legislation concerning Bisphenol-A.

Member of: ACAA, USGBC

Leading marketer of fly ash used in building materials. Seeking certification of coal ash as “post-consumer” recycled material. Suing EPA: opposes possible regulation of coal ash as “hazardous waste.”

Member of: ACC
Exhibitor at Greenbuild EXPO 2012

Member of: RFCI, USGBC

Exhibitor at Greenbuild EXPO 2012

Dow

Member of: ACC, USGBC

Dow is the third-leading producer of Bisphenol-A. It lobbies Congress on TSCA, the Safe Chemicals Act, and regulation of BPA.

DSM

Member of: ACC, USGBC

Exhibitor at Greenbuild EXPO 2012

MMember of: ACC, SPI, USGBC

Exhibitor at Greenbuild EXPO 2012

Member of: ACC, SPI, USGBC

Eastman, a leading phthalate producer, is an active lobbyist on TSCA and “LEED standards.”

Eastman Chemical claims, “phthalates are among the most thoroughly studied families of compounds in the world and have been reviewed by multiple regulatory bodies in the United States and Europe. Eastman is confident that the products it makes are safe for their intended uses and is committed to the continued research and development of these products as the industry and regulatory landscapes evolve.”

Member of: ACC, VI

ExxonMobil has been lobbying Congress about phthalates since at least 2008. In 2012, LEED got into its lobbyists sights. Its lobbying disclosure form reports “Discussions related to U.S. General Service Administrations Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program.”

New Yorker staff writer Steve Coll’s 2012 book, Private Empire - Exxon Mobil and American Power, documents how a group of more than a dozen ExxonMobil executives, gave contributions all at once to U.S. Rep. Joe Barton’s re-election committee. The money flowed after Barton championed a bill that greatly restricted the regulation of endocrine-disrupting phthalates, chemicals manufactured by Exxon Mobil and widely used in flexibly vinyl building products such as roofing membranes, flooring and wall coverings.

Member of: RFCI, USGBC
Exhibitor at Greenbuild EXPO 2012

Member of: ACAA, USGBC
Exhibitor at Greenbuild EXPO 2012

Leading marketer of fly ash used in building materials. Suing EPA: opposes possible regulation of coal ash as “hazardous waste.”

Member of: ACAA, USGBC
Exhibitor at Greenbuild EXPO 2012

Member of: RFCI
Exhibitor at Greenbuild EXPO 2012

Member of: ACC

A leading producer of synthetic rubber, this German firm reported lobbying U.S. House members on “LEED changes to building code standards” in 2012.

Member of: ACC

Momentive makes formaldehyde-based resins. It boasts that Momentive is the “world’s leading source of formaldehyde—the most studied chemical in existence.”

It routinely lobbies Congress on formaldehyde-related issues. And, Momentive has lobbied House and Senate members to “oppose adoption by GSA of LEED 2012 standards.”

Member of: USGBC
Exhibitor at Greenbuild EXPO 2012

Quanex Building Products, a vinyl windows company, sees a conspiracy to undermine polyvinyl chloride (PVC) through the proposed LEED credit.

Ric Jackson, Quanex’s external affairs director, wrote in May 2012, “Once again the United States Green Building Council is attacking the vinyl window industry as it proposes changes to its LEED rating system... To put it simply, if you disclose the use of PVC or avoid using PVC you will receive additional points. This is not the first time USGBC has declared war on PVC and will not likely be the last. The Vinyl Institute and the ACC have pushed back, however, and drawn attention to the General Services Administration for its involvement with USGBC and support of LEED.”

Quanex spent over $300,000 in 2012 lobbying Congress on “the potential adoption of revisions to the LEED rating program” and other issues.

Member of: AHPBC, USGBC

Long-time protector of vinyl flooring, the RFCI has been lobbying Congress about two things since 2011: “the Proposed EPA listing of phthalates under Section 5(b)(4) of TSCA (and) Green building legislation and standards.”

The November 2012 issue of Floor Covering News provides plenty of detail about the RFCI’s political strategy on phthalates and LEED: The trade group’s president, Dean Thompson, explained: “We defend where any flooring products are faced with deselection.”

Member of: RFCI, USGBC
Exhibitor at Greenbuild EXPO 2012

Member of: ACC, SPI

SABIC, seventy percent owned by the Saudi government, is the world’s second leading producer of polycarbonate (Bisphenol A-based) resins. It has lobbied Congress on Bisphenol-A since 2008, and began lobbying Congress in 2012 “regarding the use of LEED for federal government buildings.”

Member of: AHPBC, USGBC

The SPI describes the proposed LEED credits to disclose and avoid chemicals of concern as “unsound, unscientific.”

Member of: ACC

Solvay, a Belgian corporation, produces specialty chemicals like flame retardants and blowing agents used in the building industry. In the third quarter of 2012, Solvay began lobbying the US House on “LEED v.4 credits.”

Member of: AHPBC, USGBC
Exhibitor at Greenbuild EXPO 2012

“A lot of people have opened their eyes that this is a system that is out of control,” Richard Doyle, president and CEO of the Vinyl Institute, told PlasticsToday in July 2012. “It’s almost schizophrenic how the USGBC is dealing with PVC. It makes you question what their motivations are. We are one of the cleanest industry sectors out there and there is no reason to be punishing the sector.”

The Vinyl Institute has been lobbying Congress on “green building issues” since at least 2007. In 2012, it clarified that the scope is “green building rating systems.”


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