What Happened to Good Intentions ?

2001-2014 EPA Chemical Assessments Graph

What happened to President Obama’s promise to divorce politics from science ? More specifically, what happened to those good intentions to assess dangerous chemicals more quickly at the EPA ? When Lisa Jackson came on board as the new EPA administrator in 2009 during the first Obama term, she was fully supportive of the president’s promise. She knew the EPA needed to assess 50 chemicals a year to do its job properly. Jackson quickly rolled out a plan to break through the logjam of the Bush years when the EPA was only averaging five assessments per year. Jackson’s plan seemed easily achievable and needed only a little tweaking regarding the inner workings of bureaucracy. It required no congressional approval and the Republican party never passed any legislation to block it.

It seemed like a great start for Jackson who is educated as a chemical engineer. It is interesting to note that she attended Tulane University on a scholarship from Shell Oil Company. She graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering in 1983 and earned her Master of Science degree, also in chemical engineering, from Princeton University in 1986. Jackson had some valid environmental experience from working in a variety of positions beginning at the EPA involved in toxic waste clean-up issues and moving into the top position as Commissioner at the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection before being nominated to head the EPA for Obama. Even so, New Jersey environmental activists when asked were divided in their opinion of her work at the NJ Dept of Environmental Protection agency and the split seemed to be between those who work on energy and climate policy in the state’s capital (who were supportive of her) and those who work on toxic cleanups at the local level who were critical of her.

Environment is Foundational

In spite of all the good intentions, since 2012, the EPA has assessed fewer chemicals than ever. Last year it completed only one assessment. More worrisome is the indication that the agency has now embraced measures sought by the chemical industry that have led to endless delays. I learn a lot about the chemical industry in reading Plastics News. I know that they have had impacts on LEED v4 as well. Though chemicals are important in our business and in everyday life, I can’t shake the feeling that the industry as a whole can’t be entirely trusted to consider the people’s health and welfare over profits when making decisions.

There are more than 80,000 chemicals on the market today. You might think that the government tests each chemical to assure that it’s safe. However, that is NOT true in the United States. Unlike the European Union, in the US, chemicals are assumed to pose no health risk unless the EPA proves otherwise. This task is left to a small program within the EPA called the Integrated Risk Information System, or IRIS. Jackson wanted to drastically cut the time spent on each chemical assessment from an average of seven years to less than two years. Yet almost immediately the chemical industry found ways to thwart Jackson’s plan with the help of certain Republicans in Congress. Although the GOP didn’t control either chamber in Obama’s first two years, some Republican lawmakers still found ways to delay the application of science at the EPA in favor of insignificant details.

Formaldehyde Warning Label

Here is one example –

In the early days of our contract furniture business the collateral furniture pieces we made had a foundation of particle board that was then covered with plastic laminate or wood veneer. One good thing about particle board is that it is made with 100 percent recycled materials. The tiny wood chunks and sawdust that go into it are usually reclaimed waste from sawmills and lumber yards. That means that some manufacturers are now using wood that would otherwise end up in a landfill.

However, particleboard isn’t part of the green-building pantheon. The reason is that the resin glue that binds the wood fibers and provides structural strength contains formaldehyde which emits carcinogenic gases into the air from the finished boards. At surprisingly low levels these formaldehyde emissions produce a pungent odor and they can pose a health risk. For decades, formaldehyde (which turns up in many other building and consumer products including automobiles and even no-iron shirts) emissions have been known to cause eye, nose and respiratory irritations in sensitive people. The World Health Organization has classified formaldehyde as a carcinogen. EPA scientists began evaluating the chemical in 1998 and determined that it was linked to nasal cancers and leukemia. To be honest, all wood naturally emits minute amounts of formaldehyde.

Formaldehyde Particleboard

Particleboard inevitably became part of discussions regarding how far beyond “minute” it is safe to go because the fabricated material is one of the primary sources of indoor formaldehyde emissions. In lab tests, formaldehyde emissions from particleboard average about 0.2 parts per million. Greenguard Environmental Institute was a nonprofit group that tested and certified formaldehyde emission levels in building-products and furnishings. According to Marilyn Black, an environmental chemist and the original founder of Greenguard, above 0.3 parts per million almost everyone will notice their eyes watering and nose and throat becoming irritated. In 2011, UL Environment acquired ownership of Greenguard and as such is no longer a non-profit.

Georgia-Pacific makes particleboard with formaldehyde. It is owned by Koch Industries’ whose billionaire owners Charles and David Koch financially influence politics. The American Chemistry Council, a trade association and lobby group for the chemical industry, said in a statement in defense of the formaldehyde industry – “The scientific literature is clear that there is no increased health risk from low-level exposures normally found in home or work environments.” Who do you want to believe ? I certainly have a preference.

Republican Senator David Vitter of Louisiana blocked the EPA appointee who would oversee the IRIS program until the agency agreed to get a second opinion on its formaldehyde assessment. The EPA agreed to have the National Academy of Sciences review its formaldehyde draft. The academy is considered the preferred scientific adviser at the national level but the panel reviewing the formaldehyde assessment didn’t focus on whether the EPA was right about the science. Instead it criticized the formaldehyde draft for being confusing and made suggestions on how to make future IRIS reports clearer. This seemingly valid perspective actually made the chemical industry very happy.

What Happened to Good Intentions ?

What Happened to Good Intentions ?

So back to what happened . . . What put the brakes on the EPA’s intention to complete chemical assessments in a timely manner ? The short answer – the chemical industry’s lobbyist and former EPA official Charlie Grizzle. By leveraging the National Academy’s criticisms about the clarity of the formaldehyde assessment, Grizzle and others got language inserted into legislation that delayed all 47 chemical assessments that were in progress at the time. They did this by instructing the EPA to adopt the academy’s recommendations and explain to Congress how it was going to implement those regulations for ongoing and new assessments.

William Ruckelshaus, who ran the EPA for presidents Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, said getting the National Academy to review the EPA’s scientific findings is a common delay tactic used by industry that endangers the public health. He said that delaying the publication of adverse findings is an unconscionable act on behalf of the industry that manufactures the chemicals and derives economic benefit from that activity. Ironically, last year the National Academy subsequently released its own assessment of formaldehyde. I’ll bet you guessed it already !! It agreed with the EPA’s findings that formaldehyde is a known carcinogen. Regrettably it has been 17 long years that the EPA has been trying to get its formaldehyde assessment completed and even now, it is still mired in delays.

Formaldehyde Danger

And the situation remains worrisome because in July 2012, Dr. Kenneth Olden took charge of the EPA’s National Center for Environmental Assessment, which is who oversees IRIS. While a director at the National Institutes of Health, Olden raised eyebrows by collaborating with the American Chemistry Council to fund scientific research. It should not be surprisingly then that his appointment has won praise from the chemical industry and certain Republicans for his embrace of the procedural changes to assessment reports as suggested by the National Academy of Sciences.

Companies in the particleboard industry say that they HAVE voluntarily reduced formaldehyde emissions from their products by 80 percent in 20 years. I believe it but Yikes !! Certainly, we can all be thankful for that much. The particleboard industry could bring its formaldehyde emissions down simply by using a different glue – phenol formaldehyde resin. Emissions from particleboard made with that glue are so low that some green rating systems give points to home builders for using it. According to Healthy House Institute, Urea-formaldehyde (UF) glue off-gasses considerably more formaldehyde than Phenol-formaldehyde (PF) glue. Georgia-Pacific Chemicals does manufacture and offer a Phenol-formaldehyde glue under the tradename LEAF®. The product is considered by them to be a low-emission resin for use in particleboard and MDF. LEAF GB resins may be melamine-formaldehyde, melamine-urea-formaldehyde or phenol-formaldehyde based and GP believes they may meet some green building standards.

As often happens, what California demands serves all of the citizens of the United States because their influence in the marketplace is that strong. The California Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Resources Board has established low emission standards for the off-gassing of formaldehyde that should result in safer substrate products becoming more common in the marketplace nationwide. The first emission standards were implemented on January 1, 2009. The latest update on this issue was posted at their website on May 23, 2014 (see my information resources below for that link).

~ Information Resources

“Obama’s EPA breaks pledge to divorce politics from science on toxic chemicals” posted by David Heath on Jan 23, 2015 – http://www.publicintegrity.org/2015/01/23/16641/obamas-epa-breaks-pledge-divorce-politics-science-toxic-chemicals

Environmental Protection Agency’s Integrated Risk Information System – http://www.epa.gov/iris/

Lisa P Jackson, EPA Administrator 2009-2013 posted at Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lisa_P._Jackson

“A Solution to the Particleboard Problem?” by Katherine Salant posted May 31, 2008 at the Washington Post – http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/05/30/AR2008053001485.html

Greenguard Certification from UL Environment – http://greenguard.org/en/index.aspx

“Formaldehyde-Based Glues” posted at Healthy House Institute – http://www.healthyhouseinstitute.com/hhip-780-Formaldehyde-Based-Glues

Adhesives/Binder Resins offered by Georgia-Pacific Chemicals – http://www.gp-chemicals.com/Adhesives_Binder_Resins_Product_Category

Composite Wood Products ATCM (airborne toxic control measure) – http://www.arb.ca.gov/toxics/compwood/compwood.htm


Blog author ~ Deborah Hart Yemm is co-founder of
Yemm & Hart, a green materials producer


What to do when Life isn’t Fair

The Eras Family in 2012

The Eras Family in 2012

I really can’t understand this. I really can’t understand why my friend’s ten year old boy/girl twins and her loving husband have a funeral for her today instead of having her. Why are we losing so many of our loved ones to cancer ? What is it that is causing this ? And what can we do about that ? Those who treat cancer tell us it’s all about attitude and confidence. My friend had all the best of those attributes in her favor upon receiving her diagnosis. If that was what made the difference, she would be winning her battle and not already lost to it. What does Triple Negative Breast Cancer mean anyway ? I won’t pretend to know. My heart says it’s not this, and not this, and not this and because it doesn’t conform to the medical community’s expectations, we really don’t know what to do about it. Nothing we try is working. And maybe it’s not that.

All I know is that a brilliant lawyer who’s passion was the well-being of women and children is no longer practicing law. All I know is that an enormously funny comedienne isn’t making anyone laugh today. All I know is that the mother who loved nothing more in life than her children and that her children loved nothing as much as their amazing mother are bereft. I know that a very loving husband is now a widower. None of this makes sense.

Toxic Chemical Exposure

What I do know equally well is that there are too many chemicals floating around throughout our environment and there seems to be no end to the expanding number of these and no way for the EPA and the NIH and anyone else charged with the responsibility of keeping our environment safe to keep up with the threats. And I know that I do totally suspect that some of the cancers that are robbing families of their loved ones are directly the fault of at least some of these chemicals that we are assaulted with each day.

It just so happens that October has been Breast Cancer Awareness Month. According to Physicians for Social Responsibility, cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States. It accounts for 1 in 4 deaths and robs us of 1,500 lives every day. Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women and the second most frequently diagnosed cancer in women. In the US, breast cancer results in the highest mortality rates of any cancer in women between the ages of 20 and 59. Today, I have chosen to honor my friend by putting a real face and a real family into the statistics. I would guess that almost every person knows someone or some family who has been affected. I know more than a handful and several who left young children behind without mothers or fathers. This is simply unacceptable.

Breast Cancer Awareness

Breast Cancer Awareness

In addition to the pain and suffering caused by cancer, the disease places an enormous economic burden on our society. Many cancers are preventable. In a May 2010 report by the President’s Cancer Panel under President Obama, the conclusion was “the true burden of environmentally induced cancers has been grossly underestimated”. Exposure to environmental carcinogens (chemicals or substances that can lead to the development of cancer) can occur in the workplace and in the home, as well as through consumer products, medical treatments, and lifestyle choices. It has long been known that exposure to high levels of certain chemicals, such as those in some occupational settings, can cause cancer. And there is now growing scientific evidence that exposure to lower levels of chemicals in the general environment is contributing to society’s cancer burden.

I am grateful that the Architectural and Interior Design communities are trying to do something about all of this. There is a lot of attention currently being given to indoor air quality in the built environment that encloses so many of us for so many hours of our lives each day. Environmental Product Declarations and Health Product Declarations may be complex and difficult to prepare accurately but at least its a step in the right direction. If we know what we are being exposed to, it may be that better alternatives which are less toxic and lethal could be found.

Movie - Michael Clayton

Movie – Michael Clayton

So yes my heart is heavy and I’m looking for something to blame for the senseless loss of a brilliant and vibrant human being. I don’t honestly know what caused the cancer that ultimately caused my friend’s untimely demise. But I do know that there are those in the chemical business who are not honest with us and who will do anything to keep the profits rolling in. I would suggest to anyone that cares, the George Clooney movie Michael Clayton (nominated for 7 Academy Awards) that my family watched the other night.

I realize that this movie is fiction but my heart tells me that there is even so a lot of unfortunate truth behind the story that makes the movie entirely credible. We should not be deceived into believing that the lack of accountability and transparency that is typical of the chemical industry is acceptable. And like the behavior of the tobacco companies we should not underestimate what the chemical industry is willing to do to protect themselves.

Tuesday, Nov 4th is election day in the United States. It does matter who you choose to represent you. Before you step into the voting booth be sure to check the environmental score of the politician you plan to vote for. Go to On-the-Issues.org (see Information Resources below). The Environment is about more than Climate Change, it’s totally about quality of life on this planet. So please DO vote. It’s the only avenue that most of us have to make any difference at all at the governmental level. It may not seem like much but it IS something every person of mature age can do.

Vote Nov 4

This sad blog and my commitment to being a part of the change that I wish to see in the world is dedicated today to my awesome friend, Lorraine Breitman Eras, and to her beautiful little family who now must find a way to continue through life without her shining presence there with them.

~ Information Resources

Cancer and Toxic Chemicals posted at the Physicians for Social Responsibility website – http://www.psr.org/environment-and-health/confronting-toxics/cancer-and-toxic-chemicals.html

Michael Clayton (film) – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Clayton_(film)

Environment at On the Issues.org – http://www.ontheissues.org/Environment.htm#Headlines


Blog author ~ Deborah Hart Yemm is co-founder of
Yemm & Hart, a green materials producer


Chemicals – Natural & a Menace

No Toxic Chemicals !!!

No Toxic Chemicals !!!

Okay, so whatever is on this planet, is actually natural. That includes man and that includes chemicals. Man has been able to combine chemicals in ways, that did not previously occur in that same manner, in “nature”; but the fact that man can combine chemicals in novel combinations must still be in accordance with natural laws. It cannot be otherwise. Toxicity, however, should be a definite concern, when it comes to whether or not we will sustain humanity’s ability to live on this planet. We have been aware through the direct experiences of more than one acquaintance that allergic sensitivities to certain chemicals are developing in people, that seriously impact their quality of daily life.

Bullitt Center - Seattle WA

Bullitt Center – Seattle WA

Good news comes by way of a thorough effort to address such concerns in the building of The Bullitt Center, opened in Seattle WA in April 2013. In learning the details of this new construction, I was finding within my own self a deep appreciation for such an achievement by the building’s designers. The feat that they accomplished was keeping OUT of its construction, more than 360 commonly used and potentially toxic elements and compounds – from its walls and wires, to its pipes and paints.

A report by the scientists, who focused their research on just one common condition – “asthma” – resulted in “Asthmagens” on the Healthy Building Network website. Their report underscores the potential dangers of this vast and largely undisclosed stew of chemicals hiding in most building materials used in modern homes, schools, hospitals and offices. Americans now spend an estimated 90 percent of their time in such indoor spaces. This list of chemicals includes neurotoxins, carcinogens, hormone mimics and reproductive disrupters, which could be playing a role in a number of today’s increasing health problems.

I personally believe that we see so many incidences of cancer in the general population now for similar reasons to why there is such an increase in the incidence of asthma. Human beings are exposed to great concentrations of chemicals, that they did not naturally evolve to be in that much contact with, due to the advances of modern chemistry in concert with industry, for the production of products that contribute to revenue streams. These products become conveyances of those substances, that each of us are coming into increasingly frequent contact with.

I welcome the ever closer scrutiny of design professionals with the educated ability to analyze and interpret the safety of such common ingredients of modern living. They are bringing us not only greater transparency but refining our awareness of these impacts.

Architectural drawing Bullitt Center - Seattle WA

Architectural drawing
Bullitt Center – Seattle WA

The group that created the Pharos database cross-referenced a list of known and suspected asthma-causing chemicals with ingredients in over 1,300 flooring, adhesive, insulation and other building products. A priority list of 20 target chemicals were chosen for their likelihood of preventing the development of asthma. These chemicals all showed a significant potential to cause the onset of asthma, and were likely to actually be absorbed, inhaled or ingested by building occupants. Many volatile organic compounds (VOCs), such as formaldehyde, made the list. The potentially toxic emissions from these products peak when the product is new and then dwindle over time as they are “off-gassed”. Semi-volatile organic compounds (SVOCs), which tend to capture less attention from the building industry, are also represented on the list, due to their propensity to create much longer-term indoor hazards because they slowly degrade over time. Also included are flame retardants, phthalate plasticizers and other SVOCs which have been also identified as hormone disrupters. Some of these are better known for their emerging links to things like obesity, breast cancer and attention deficit disorder, but evidence suggests the chemicals can affect the lungs and the subsequent development of asthma, as well.

Over recent decades, as more and more man-made chemical complexes have entered our daily lives, energy efficiency standards simultaneously tightened-up buildings. One of the troublesome trade-offs to this well-intentioned campaign is the trapping of toxic gases released by those chemical ingredients. Even a construction project that earns a top rating for being a “green building” (such as the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design – LEED) certification, may still be packed full of toxins — with perhaps even less of an opportunity, due to energy efficiencies, for their escape.

We appreciate the attempts in considering the new LEED standards unveiled in November to offer manufacturers credit for the disclosure and elimination of certain hazardous chemicals. While this may have immediate financial implications for business, we are in agreement with the long term intention – “to ultimately reduce harmful chemical exposures.” We understand that in order to do that, disclosure must occur regarding what is actually in the product that is going into the building. Many of those who are genuinely green-hearted in the design world (including those creating the new LEED standards) have already realized that many of the kinds of chemicals that they would like to keep OUT of buildings, are viewed by their manufacturers as “trade secrets”. They often don’t appear on any disclosure of ingredients list and many have never been tested, for their effects on human health. We understand that that the environment’s ability to sustain life can be seen as intimately linked with the health of human beings.

Bullitt Center Features

Bullitt Center Features

Next year (Jan 15, 2014), designers will be able to access a list of ALL of the ingredients approved for the Bullitt Center (950 individual components) on their website. We look forward to that gift of The Bullitt Center’s willingness to share their hard work, with all of us who love healthy buildings full of healthy people.

Information Resources –

Huffington Post – “Are Toxic Chemicals In Building Materials Making Us Sick?” by Lynne Peeples posted Dec 12, 2013

Healthy Building Network – “Full Disclosure Required – A Strategy to Prevent Asthma Through Building Product Selection”

Living Building Challenge

Pharos Building Product Library


Blog author ~ Deborah Hart Yemm is co-founder of
Yemm & Hart, a green materials producer


Is A Little Competition A Good Thing ?

Tree of Green Hearts blowing away
The “green hearts” are in a tizzy about recent developments in green certification systems, as the General Services Administration announced that it will give the federal agencies it oversees a choice of green building certification systems. Because there was already some conflict and tension between the plastics, chemicals and timber industries with the proposed new standards for LEED v4, the news is being met with suspicion of behind the scenes manipulation and lobbying to ease the standards these industries were being called upon to meet.

The “new guy” on the block is the Green Building Initiative’s “Green Globes 2010” system. Still remaining a significant force is the US Green Building Council’s 2009 standards for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED).
LEED vs Green Globes

I am an environmental skeptic by nature. And it is not lost on me that this decision by the GSA is being met by the more hard-core environmentalists as a ruse. Where there is smoke, there is usually fire and there are a crowd of environmentalists yelling “FIRE !!” on this one. Still, I also try to bring a balanced perspective to any controversial issue, generally finding that there is wisdom in choosing a middle way – not on the fringes of extremism, either direction.

At issue is whether the latest authorization also yields the perception that “the Green Globes rating system aligns slightly better than LEED with federal requirements for new construction, while LEED remains the most compatible green building rating system for existing buildings.” for those are the exact words used in the report.

Treehugger.com in their article about this, shares the following comparison of 3 green certification standards prepared by the Dept of Energy –

Dept of Energy Comparison Chart

Dept of Energy Comparison Chart

Showing there is fuel for that fire is the official governance of the Green Building Initiative organization – “GBI is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. GBI has 53 Members and Supporters and 9 Industry Affiliates. In addition, GBI has over 10,000 ‘Friends of GBI’, formerly known as Associate Members who receive the quarterly newsletter and other information from GBI. There is a Board of Directors, Executive Director, executive staff, and Industry Advisory Board. Decisions of the Industry Advisory Board are non-binding.” I suppose that last bit is supposed to reassure those of us who have reason to be skeptical about what is driving the new competitive kid on the green block.

It probably is not a coincidence that there is a strong foundational perspective in GBI that derives from Hubbell Communications motto – “We understand how public policy and perceptions are created and we use the power of communications to shape both.” (gee, the President of Hubbell Communications – Wade Hubbell, is also the founder of GBI.) Hubbell proudly displays one of their successes on their website, a car manufacturer’s association who had a “legislative problem in Oregon.”-“In just a few days, we had a fresh coalition identity, a campaign website, and a strong social media presence.” Hmmm, there does seem to be a bit of smoke and mirrors going on with GBI and the Green Globes (green washing ?, anyone ?).

After Ward Hubbell left his position as a PR exec at Louisiana Pacific, he received startup capital from the lumber industry for the purpose of establishing a green standard that did not give points to FSC certified lumber (are you smelling it now too ?). In 2006, The Forest and Paper Association told the Wall Street Journal that “Green Globes is much more wood-friendly than LEED”. (Ahhhh, can you see that smoke rising from its source now ?) There is not even an attempt to distance Hubbell Communications from the Green Building Initiatives – they operate out of the same building. How convenient and eco-friendly !!! Fewer carbon emissions.

Smoke Rising from a Forest

Then there is the board of directors of the GBI. It includes a couple of representatives of Dow Chemical, the Vinyl Institute, the Resilient Floor Covering Institute, Solvay, a chemical company, a communications director for Weyerhaeuser, among others. According to Treehugger.com – “Two of the most contentious issues facing the green building industry are lumber certification and the safety of products made from PVC and vinyl. The Sustainable Forestry Initiative has done a tremendous job of attacking LEED, and convincing politicians that FSC is somehow foreign and unamerican; The Chemical industry has politicians writing letters to the GSA complaining that LEED will kill jobs. Now the GSA has a report in their hands that claims ‘the Green Globes rating system aligns slightly better than LEED with federal requirements for new construction’.”

The Vinyl Institute logo
I already knew the background story from Plastics News (a plastics industry trade publication that I receive for our business which recycles a variety of plastics). I knew that the plastics industry as a whole was very unhappy that vinyl was coming under fire. Our business is also deeply concerned about the risks to the environment and human health posed by the production of polyvinyl chloride. The best thing that we can think of, to do personally, is lock it up (after its initial production and use, to recycle it, rather than allow it to go into a landfill). It is our hope that someday, there will be little to none of this in our environment and that better alternatives will have been found.

In the Nov 18, 2013 issue of Plastics News they give the story of the GSA decision, to allow the Green Globes certification system to be used by federal agencies as an alternative choice to the previous dominance by LEED, front page top billing. In an attempt to appear balanced and impartial, they quote The Sierra Club’s, Jason Grant (a member of their Forest Certification and Green Building Team), allowing him to express his suspicions in print, regarding the influence of certain industries on Green Globes standards. “Green Globes certainly goes easy on those industries.” He is further quoted as saying “Apparently the chemical and plastics industry is willing to invest a lot to prevent the truth from coming out.”

The Society of the Plastics Industry is concerned that LEED v4 will encourage its applicants not to use certain materials such as PVC or the fluoropolymers used in wiring and cable. Of additional concern to producers and manufacturers throughout that spectrum are points given to building products that have environmental product declarations (EPDs) and for the firm’s willingness to disclose their ingredients and the sources of raw materials. Wouldn’t you want to know those things ? That the chemicals that you are being exposed to, are not going to cause cancer in you, down the road. One could suspect the prevalence of cancer in our modern society has some of its roots, in the exponential growth of a wide range of new chemical combinations allowed into our lives. But then, you might think I’m being unfair . . . and biased in my blog.

To their credit the USGBC is taking it in stride. Lane Burt, their policy director counters the fears of industry by affirming – “We don’t have language in LEED v4 that says – “Don’t use this stuff.” And acknowledges that has been a significant misunderstanding. Yes, there was a draft, that considered giving points for the avoidance of certain materials, but the council decided to shift towards a more positive perspective, a “green-list approach”.

An environmentalist would be hard pressed to fault the spirit of the proposed LEED v4 standards – credits for life-cycle analysis of materials, product transparency and picking those products that haven’t been extracted in a way that’s environmentally destructive. The Sierra Club’s, Jason Grant, was quoted in Plastics News as saying of v4 – “In general, what it rewards is higher levels of transparency than existed in the past about what chemicals are found in significant quantities in building products.” He feels that knowledge of “… chemicals that might be carcinogenic or mutagenic or endocrine disruptors” is some important information, that people have a right to know; and that profit motives should not be subverting that disclosure.

SOURCES, additional reading – information for this blog came from

Plastics News – “Feds given green light to LEED competitor” by Catherine Kavanaugh

Treehugger.com – “LEED Bashing: Government Study Finds ‘Equivalence’ Between LEED and Green Globes” by Lloyd Alter


Hubbell Communications – http://www.hubbellcommunications.com/


Blog author ~ Deborah Hart Yemm is co-founder of
Yemm & Hart, a green materials producer