Healthy Building Network Reports On Harmful Home Building Materials

Posted by Kylie Noell on December 18th, 2013 | View comments

The Healthy Building Network (HBN) released a new report that revealed toxic chemicals found in building materials that can cause asthma. The report titled, Full Disclosure Required: A Strategy to Prevent Asthma Through Building Product Selection, exposes common household products containing these asthma causing chemicals.

HBN began their study by looking into occupational health research that identified asthmagens—chemicals that cause the onset of asthma—and cross referenced these chemicals with the ingredients of more than 1,300 building products. Ingredients of these building materials can be found in the Pharos Building Product Library, a disclosure resource created by HBN in 2009.After completing this cross-reference HBN found 50 asthmagen chemicals in these building materials, 20 of which occupants are easily exposed to either by installation or standard use.

"Many building materials like flooring, carpets, insulation and paints, contain asthmagens as well as chemicals that can trigger asthma attacks," explains Ted Schettler, MD, MPH from the Science and Environmental Health Network.

Exposure to these chemicals found in building materials can happen in several different ways, depending on the specific chemical, asthmagens can either be released from building materials as dust from degradation or abrasion, adsorb to dust particles or simply release into the air and can be inhaled, ingested or come in contact with the skin.

According to HBN, 26 million people in the US are affected by chronic asthma. Each year there are 1.8 million asthma related emergency room visits, 500,000 hospitalizations and more than 3,000 asthma attack related deaths—all costing the US over $50 billion dollars annually.

Some industry professionals are working to find solutions to volatile building materials and home products. Robin Wilson, an eco-designer and ambassador for the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, is dedicated to healthy home design after growing up with asthma and allergies. Robin sat down with TotalHousehold to talk about her efforts as an eco-designer in this interview.

Many paint manufactures offer paint free of VOCs, volatile organic compounds like glycol, which can cause asthma and allergies.

“Housing has been legendary for hazards, including other toxic threats such as lead in paint,” said Yianice Hernandez, Director of Enterprise Green Communities.“Now, people who design affordable housing need to pay close attention to materials with chemicals that can trigger asthma and other illness, particularly in children and people who are most vulnerable."

For more information about the HBN report visit,