U.S. Green Building Council's Guiding Principles Include Precaution
U.S. Green Building Council
February 27, 2007
USGBC Final Report: PVC an Unhealthy Building Material
Washington, DC. The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), the nation's
largest green building organization, yesterday released its long-awaited
assessment of the health and environmental impacts of polyvinyl chloride
plastic (PVC) building materials.
The report makes clear that PVC, also commonly known as vinyl, is not a
healthy building material. A proper accounting of the human health impacts
of PVC across its lifecycle, including disposal issues and occupational
exposure, finds that PVC leads to the release of dangerous quantities of
dioxin and other carcinogens. The report authors found that, "When we add
end of life with accidental landfill fires and backyard burning, the
additional risk of dioxin emissions puts PVC consistently among the worst
materials for human health impacts."
The report concludes the work of the USGBC's Technical and Scientific
Advisory Committee (TSAC), which conducted the PVC analysis in order to
inform the USGBC's LEED Steering Committee on a PVC-related credit within
the LEEDR Green Building Rating SystemT.
Citing data uncertainties and mixed environmental performance of some of the
alternatives studied, the report did not recommend a specific credit on PVC.
Instead the TSAC recommended issue-based credits, specifically suggesting
"comprehensive approaches to issues such as bioaccumulative pollutants" and
incentives for continuous improvement of materials. It suggested areas for
further research and acknowledged the Precautionary Principle as a
fundamental principle for the USGBC in guiding decisions based on their
findings. The report will now go to the LEED Steering Committee to determine
"This report affirms concerns that the environmental health community has
long held about PVC that are already driving substantial market shifts,"
said Tom Lent, Policy Director for the Healthy Building Network. "The report
makes important contributions to materials analysis with its accounting of
human health and end-of-life impacts of building materials. We are confident
that an appropriate application of the Precautionary Principle to this body
of work can help the USGBC produce sound policies and practices to encourage
the development of healthier materials."
Contact: Tom Lent
For more information:
The "Assessment of the Technical Basis for a PVC Related Materials Credit
for LEED" dated February 2007 can be found on the USGBC's web site at
http://www.usgbc.org/DisplayPage.aspx?CMSPageID=1633. The human health
impacts quote is from the Summary of Findings section of the main report on
p. 88, line 24.
To learn more about PVC, dioxin and other chemicals of concern in building
materials and for reports and discussion of emerging events as the USGBC
process for addressing them moves forward, visit the Healthy Building
Network and Pharos Project websites at www.healthybuilding.net
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