ALKYLPHENOLS AND RELATED COMPOUNDS
Alkylphenols are a large family of organic compounds used in a wide variety of products, including cleaning products, beauty products, contraceptives, coatings, fragrances, thermoplastics, carbonless copy paper, and agrochemicals. Most concerns are focused on alkylphenol ethoxylates (APEs), which bioaccumulate and have been shown to cause endocrine disruption in fish. APEs are in cleaning products that end up in waterways from wastewater treatment effluent. Some alkylphenols, especially nonylphenol, are being phased out in Europe, and more research into their impacts is needed. A few governments with environmentally preferable purchasing programs restrict or ban APEs.
ANTIMICROBIALS (MARKETED WITH A HEALTH CLAIM)
Antimicrobials are a class of chemicals designed to kill or inhibit the growth of microbes. Antimicrobials are frequently used in soaps and building materials, including countertops, paints, and doorknobs. Nineteen antimicrobials were banned in soaps and bodywashes by the FDA in 2016. Antimicrobials used in building materials are regulated by the EPA as a pesticide, falling outside of the scope of the FDA’s ban. Antimicrobials are often used as a preservative in building materials, but the health benefits of their use have not been established or substantiated. Some antimicrobials are endocrine disruptors, and have been shown to impair learning and weaken muscle function.
Interest in building products with applied antimicrobial treatments has increased significantly during the recent global COVID-19 pandemic. While information regarding individual substances’ efficacy in controlling propagation of SARS-CoV-2 remains incomplete, “no evidence yet exists to demonstrate that products intended for use in interior spaces that incorporate antimicrobial additives result in healthier populations.” (COVID-19 Statement: Understanding Antimicrobial Ingredients in Building Materials, Perkins and Will and Healthy Building Network (2020)) ILFI continues to monitor the situation and commits to presenting current information about reported or potential human and environmental health impacts of antimicrobial substances as commonly used within the building industry and supporting its community of users in best utilizing this information in their own practice.
Asbestos is a mineral fiber that is used in a variety of construction materials for its strength and heat resisting capabilities. It is often found in wall insulation, vinyl floor coverings, paint compounds, roofing, heat-resistant fabrics, and automobile brakes. Exposure occurs as asbestos fibers are released into the air during use, demolition, work, building, or repair of asbestos-containing materials. Asbestos is a known human carcinogen, increasing risks of lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis.
BISPHENOL A (BPA) AND STRUCTURAL ANALOGUES
Bisphenol A (BPA) and chemicals with structural or functional similarity, or BPA structural analogues (NTP 2017), are used to manufacture polycarbonate plastics, epoxy resins and other products. The plastics are used in many consumer products, such as drink bottles, DVDs, eyeglass lenses, electronics, car parts, and other products that must not break easily. Epoxy resins are used for lining food cans and water pipes, and for many sales receipts. Most recent testing in animal models and epidemiological studies in humans have shown that early life BPA exposure adversely effect neurological function and development, as well as adversely affect male sex organs (such as the prostate gland) in fetuses, infants, and small children (Inadera 2015). Most health organizations advise against the use of BPA for baby bottles and related infant products. BPA has also been found in breast milk demonstrating that this chemical has the potential to expose infant populations. BPA structural analogues such as Bisphenol S (BPS) are often less legally restricted and considered a “regrettable substitution” for BPA and pose many of the same risks as BPA.
California-banned solvents herein refer to the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) designated as Group II Exempt Compounds by South Coast Air Quality Management District (South Coast AQMD) Rule 102. This designation results from the US EPA’s use of the criterion of smog formation (defined as an organic compound’s contribution to the formation of ground-level ozone) to inform the regulatory definition of a VOC. As a result, US federal air quality regulations focus on VOCs that increase ground-level ozone concentrations, and exempt (meaning exclude) compounds with negligible reactivity. The basis of this determination is the ground-level ozone forming potential of ethane. Rules promulgated by South Coast AQMD (including Rule 1113 – Architectural Coatings, Rule 1143 – Consumer Paint Thinners and Multi-Purpose Solvents, and Rule 1168 – Adhesive and Sealant Applications) therefore serve as gap-filling measures, limiting exempt compounds’ product concentration and content by regulation when they are not regulated by the EPA. Additionally following these Rules that limit the percentage by weight of these exempt compounds in their respective product types, cyclic, branched, or linear, volatile completely methylated siloxanes (VMS) are not subject to the percentage by weight limit and are not included in the LBC Red List. Though the South Coast AQMD is an authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) overseeing specific sectors of the California building products market, its restrictions on VOCs are considered industry exemplars and have influenced a significant proportion of these product industries to conform to its standards.
CHLORINATED POLYMERS, INCLUDING PVC, PVDC, CHLOROPRENE (NEOPRENE MONOMER), AND CPVC
PVC’s vinyl chloride monomer building block is a known human carcinogen, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services. In addition, PVC is a Persistent Organic Pollutant Source Material. Due to its chlorine content, PVC often contains other Red List ingredients, such as cadmium, lead, and phthalates. The manufacture and disposal of chlorinated polymers can result in the production of dioxins and disposal phases. Dioxins are some of the most potent toxins known to humans, with no known safe limit for exposure and a strong propensity for bioaccumulation. In addition, dioxins are highly persistent in the environment.
Chloroprene is a Persistent Organic Pollutant Source Material. Due to its carbon- chlorine base, chloroprene contributes to the creation of dioxins at different points in its life cycle (often manufacturing and/or disposal). According to the World Health Organization, dioxins are some of the most potent toxins known to humans, with no known safe limit for exposure and a strong propensity for bioaccumulation. In addition, dioxins are highly persistent in the environment.
Chlorinated Polyethylene (CPE) and Chlorosulfonated Polyethylene (CSPE) are Persistent Organic Pollutant Source Materials: due to their carbon-chlorine bases, these products contribute to the creation of dioxins and furans at different points in their life cycle (often manufacturing and/or disposal). According to the World Health Organization, dioxins are some of the most potent toxins known to humans, with no known safe limit for exposure and a strong propensity for bioaccumulation. In addition, dioxins are highly persistent in the environment. Similarly, furans accumulate in animal fat, concentrating as they travel up the food chain. Non-chlorinated polyethylene products are readily available in many product categories.
Chlorobenzene is used primarily as a solvent, a degreaser for auto parts, and a chemical intermediary for making other chemicals, so exposures are primarily a risk to workers making or using it. Most exposures are through inhalation of fumes. Short-term exposure can cause headaches, sleepiness, nausea, numbness, muscle spasms, and in extreme cases, unconsciousness. Chronic (long-term) exposure can cause increased signs of neurotoxicity (numbness, etc.) and irritation of the upper respiratory tract. In animals, chronic exposure has also caused kidney and liver damage. Chlorobenzene is broken down by sun and bacteria in the environment and does not accumulate in the food chain.
CHLOROFLUOROCARBONS (CFCs) AND HYDROCHLOROFLUOROCARBONS
According to US EPA, the depletion of the Earth’s protective ozone layer by chlorofluorocarbons (or CFCs) is responsible for an increased incidence of skin cancer, cataracts, impairment of human immune systems, and damage to wildlife. CFCs have been banned from production in the United States since 1995.
REF (CFC effects on ozone): http://www.epa.gov/ozone/science/sc_fact.html
REF (ozone depletion and human health): http://www.who.int/globalchange/climate/summary/en/index7.html
Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) are potent ozone-depleting compounds. While less destructive than the now-banned chlorofluorocarbons, HCFCs are targeted for gradual phaseout by the US EPA, with a total ban going into effect in the year 2030. According to US EPA, the depletion of the Earth’s protective ozone layer is responsible for an increased incidence of skin cancer, cataracts, impairment of human immune systems, and damage to wildlife.
Formaldehyde is classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer and the State of California as a known human carcinogen. Common health effects at low levels of exposure to this volatile organic compound include irritation and sensitization, and the compound also acts as an asthma trigger. Long-term exposure is associated with nasal cancers and leukemia.
MONOMERIC, AND POLYMERIC AND ORGANOPHOSPHATE HALOGENATED FLAME RETARDANTS (HFRS)
Halogenated Fire Retardants (HFRs) are a broad class of flame retardants containing chlorine or bromine that have aroused concern due to their exponential accumulation in human beings in recent years. HFRs are persistent bioaccumulative toxins, meaning that they accumulate in organisms and the broader environment, often reaching alarmingly high concentrations as they travel up the food chain. In addition, certain halogenated products have shown evidence of harm to humans and other animal species. According to the Washington State Department of Ecology, for example, the toxicity endpoints of concern for Penta-PBDE include adverse effects on neurological development, reproduction, thyroid hormone disruption and possible liver toxicity.
HFRs include PBDE, TBBPA, HBCD, Deca-BDE, TCPP, TCEP, Dechlorane Plus, and other retardants with bromine or chlorine. Boron is not an HFR and is allowed. Many products, including virtually all foam insulations, contain HFRs.
Organotin compounds are a class of substances containing a bond between tin and carbon. Organotin compounds are used in the production of PVC, silicone rubber, and polyurethane. Exposure can cause memory loss, eye irritation, and liver damage. Certain organotin compounds are neurotoxins and acute exposure can be lethal. Organotin compounds are persistent in the environment and pose a threat to aquatic life at elevated concentrations. Animal studies have indicated organotin compounds might damage the immune and nervous systems.
PERFLUOROINATED AND POLYFLUORINATED ALKYL SUBSTANCES (PFAS) / PERFLUORINATED COMPOUNDS (PFCS)
Perfluorinated and Polyfluorinated Alkyl Substances, also commonly referred to as PFAS substances, are synthetic manufactured fluorine-containing chemicals that exist in many forms with many uses in building and consumer products. Perfluorinated Compounds, or PFCs, are a subset of PFAS substances. Building product applications of PFAS include roofing materials, paints and coatings, sealants, caulks, adhesives, carpets, and more, providing highly desirable functions such as weatherproofing, corrosion prevention, lubrication, friction reduction, and grease and water resistance. PFAS and PFCs are characterized by their carbon-fluorine bonds, which are some of the strongest bonds in all of organic chemistry. The wide range of uses for PFAS and PFCs increases the potential for human and environmental exposure and is magnified by their indefinite persistence in the environment and potential for bioaccumulation. While most individual PFAS have not been studied for their impacts to human and environmental health, their persistence contributes to bioaccumulation to levels that we know to be potentially harmful. In many cases, relatively safer non-fluorinated alternatives exist for these applications and many building product sectors are already making a transition to safer chemistries.
Mounting evidence from animal studies show the hormone-disrupting potential of phthalates, primarily orthophthalates, prompting the National Research Council to urge the US Environmental Protection Agency to pursue a “cumulative risk assessment” of this class of chemicals to determine their interactivity. Testing by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that phthalates are nearly ubiquitous in the US population, with highest concentrations in women and in children aged 6 to 11 years. The endocrine disrupting nature of phthalates has implications for childhood and reproductive development, as well as cancer incidence. The European Union and over a dozen countries have banned the use of phthalates in children’s products, as has the State of California.
REF (cumulative risk assessment): http://www8.nationalacademies.org/onpinews/newsitem.aspx?RecordID=12528
POLYCHLORINATED BIPHENYLS (PCBS)
PCB manufacturing in the United States stopped in 1977 but the compound is long-lasting in the environment (mostly in soils) around old manufacturing and disposal sites, in old electrical transformers and electrical devices, and in fish and their predators. PCBs make good coolants, lubricants, and insulators for electrical equipment of all kinds. They are known to cause cancer in animals and are probable human carcinogens, but exposure tends to be limited to people who worked in the electrical industry many years ago, lived close to manufacturing sites, and/or ate contaminated fish. Health effects also include acne-like skin conditions and neurobehavioral and immunological changes in children.
SHORT-CHAIN AND MEDIUM-CHAIN CHLORINATED PARAFFINS (SCCPS & MCCPS)
SCCPs are most commonly used as lubricants and coolants in metal cutting and forming operations and are also used, along with MCCPs, as secondary plasticizers and flame retardants in plastics, such as PVC. Human exposure can be occupational, via inhalation of metalworking mists, or through contaminated food and dermal contact. Environmental exposure is usually from manufacturing activities, such as production, disposal, incineration, spills into waterways, and sewage effluent. SCCPs and MCCPs are persistent and very bioaccumulative in sediment. They have been found in marine mammals, other biota, and human breast milk in both industrial and remote areas. Toxic effects on mammals can include liver, hormone, and kidney damage that over a long term could lead to cancer in those organs.
TOXIC HEAVY METALS
Toxic heavy metals, including arsenic, cadmium, chromium (VI), lead (added), and mercury, pose a number of threats to health.
Arsenic is a carcinogen and can cause developmental issues. Inorganic arsenic is not only an acute toxin; it is a known human carcinogen.
The US Department of Health and Human Services and the International Agency for Research on Cancer have determined that cadmium is a known human carcinogen associated with lung cancer. Additionally, acute and long-term exposures can lead to lung and kidney damage, bone loss, and hypertension. In sufficient quantities, cadmium is lethal. Cadmium’s extreme toxicity means that overexposure can occur even when only trace amounts are present, such as during smelting and electroplating activities.
Chromium, primarily used in chrome plating materials, can cause breathing problems as well as nasal and lung cancer. Although chromium is a naturally occurring element and chromium III (trivalent chrome) is an essential nutrient, chromium (VI) (hexavalent chrome) can cause serious health issues, especially for factory workers who can inhale or ingest it during manufacturing. There has been concern about it in drinking water and, lacking EPA maximum allowable levels, the State of California set a public health goal for it. Chromium (VI) is used primarily for chrome plating of metals for decorative or protective finishes, making stainless steel, leather tanning, anti-corrosive agents for paints, and in textile dyes and pigments. Long-term or high-level exposure through inhalation can cause nasal irritation and ulcers, breathing problems, and nasal and lung cancer in unprotected workers. Ingestion can cause anemia and/or stomach tumors. Skin contact can cause skin ulcers and allergic reactions.
According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, the environmental levels of lead have increased more than 1000-fold over the last three centuries, due almost exclusively to human activities. Lead exposure is damaging to virtually every organ and system in the human body, but is particularly damaging to the brain and central nervous system—profoundly so for young children and developing fetuses. Lead exposure is correlated with decreased IQ and delayed learning in children; scientific research has identified no safe level of lead exposure, and effects are irreversible.
According to the World Health Organization, mercury produces a suite of ill effects, including harm to the nervous, digestive, and immune systems, and even death. WHO lists children and developing fetuses as especially vulnerable to damage from mercury. Mercury bioaccumulates in the environment, eventually reaching concentrations thousands of times more intense than ambient levels.
VOLATILE ORGANIC COMPOUNDS (VOCS) IN WET-APPLIED PRODUCTS
VOCs are members of a large group of organic chemicals that can evaporate into the indoor air under normal temperature conditions and into the outdoor air, causing environmental impacts such as photochemical smog. Their health effects vary widely, from respiratory irritants to human carcinogens (such as formaldehyde), which is a concern since they are ingredients in many products in the built environment. On-site wet applied products (paints, adhesives, and sealants) are of particular concern because they can directly impact the health of installers who may not be using breathing or dermal protection, unlike in-factory wet applied materials that are (usually) applied with worker and environmental protections in place.
Unlike other items that appear on the Red List, (VOCs) are not banned outright. Wet-applied products (including coatings, adhesives, and sealants) applied on site must meet the following established emissions and/or VOC content standards: “Wet-applied products (including coatings, adhesives, and sealants) applied on site must have VOC levels below the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) Rule 1168 for Adhesives and Sealants or the CARB 2007 Suggested Control Measure (SCM) for Architectural Coatings, as applicable.
WOOD TREATMENTS CONTAINING CREOSOTE OR PENTACHLOROPHENOL
Many conventional wood treatments introduce a litany of human health and environmental problems. The traits that make wood treatments effective at retarding rot and insect damage are also effective at damaging many other forms of life. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, creosote exposure is associated with skin and scrotum cancer in humans, and liver, kidney, and gestational problems in laboratory animals. Pentachlorophenol is linked to liver and immune system damage in humans, and reproductive and thyroid damage in laboratory animals.
REF (creosote): https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/phs/phs.asp?id=64&tid=18
REF (pentachlorophenol): https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/phs/phs.asp?id=400&tid=70
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