Allergies, asthma, lung diseases and cancer can be caused or affected by pollutants. Respiratory impairments can also lead to fatigue, difficulty with mobility, heightened sensitivity to ordinary substances, and compromised immunity to infection.
Some of the substances relevant to the building industry which impact respiratory function include cadmium, formaldehyde, hexavalent chromium and VOCs. Particulates from industry and coal-based electricity generation are major contributors to respiratory impairments.
For more information: American Lung Association
What Can I Do On My Project?
• Set tight goals for electricity use.
Cadmium, mercury, lead and particulates are released when coal is burned, so each kilowatt hour saved is a reduction in emissions which are hazardous to human health.
• Request Health Product Declarations (HPD) from product vendors and manufacturers.
An HPD identifies health hazards associated with product ingredients.
• Specify Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive (RoHS)-compliant controls, wire, cable, electronic and electrical equipment, including lighting fixtures.
The European RoHS restricts the use of six hazardous materials (including mercury, lead, and cadmium) in the manufacture of electronic and electrical equipment.
• Ensure that your project’s specifications call for low- and no-VOC products for all paints, varnishes, and coatings used in the building’s interior.
• Ensure that your project’s specifications call for the use of only composite wood products which do not contain added urea-formaldehyde.
• Give preference to products with certifications which analyze VOC emissions.
Certifications include Green Seal, CRI Green Label Plus, FloorScore and Greenguard.
• Ask product representatives about metal, leather and pigment options which do not involve hexavalent chromium in the production process.
Some manufacturers offer chrome-free metal finishes, and some leather producers use tanning methods which eliminate the hexavalent chromium byproduct.
• Consider selecting furniture without chrome plated components, and ask product representatives about hexavalent chromium-free plating options.
• Ask plumbing fitting representatives about hexavalent chromium-free plating options.
• Specify stainless steel or galvanized finishes in lieu of cadmium coatings for fittings and other hardware materials.
• Avoid selection of equipment which requires batteries for power.
Consider hardwired or power-free alternatives when appropriate. Batteries contain toxic metals and acids which present hazards to people during recycling and disposal.