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Thursday, January 18, 2018
HomeHealthChemical Companies Seek to Limit Federal Green Building

Chemical Companies Seek to Limit Federal Green Building

I reread this article in Bloomberg BusinessWeek. It’s written clearly and I know about the voluntary green building standards, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED. These standards give credit to builders that avoid chemicals that pose health risks. It was my interest in trying to decode the chemical industry’s policy stance against a bill that recommends the government continue to spend tax dollars on new construction based on LEED standards.

Chemical safety is a loaded issue.

The chemical industry consistently defends the safety of  chemicals used in  building materials that emerging scientific research points to a growing concern about their health impacts. Chemical companies do not provide basic health and safety data for the majority of chemicals on the market. Even with clear evidence of harm,  it is extremely difficult to stop the use of a chemical. See more about this on Health Care Without Harm.

The chemical industry is protecting their ability to keep selling materials they want builders to use and continue to claim that the evidence of their harm doesn’t exist.

This chemical industry stance is not new.

There’s another environmental upside to LEED buildings – energy savings. Evidence shows they are energy efficient (the Green Building Council reports that improvements to the U.S. Treasury building saves taxpayers $3.5 million a year in energy and leasing costs).

The chemical industry wants to put a kabosh on passing The Shaheen and Portman bill S. 761, The Energy Savings and Industrial Competitive Act of 2013.

They complain that LEED standard building is making health policy. And that’s a no-no?

I’ve always been interested in how the built space influences our health – from our homes, schools, work places and outdoor spaces. Urban Planning history comes out of public health – when we realized that a factory spewing toxic materials into the air can’t be built next to residential neighborhoods. That’s how we got the zoning laws we have today.

As a public health nurse with a graduate degree in urban planning,  Health Care Without Harm has been bookmarked on my computer for the past 15 years.

Ten years ago, I was involved with a green build-out of an integrative health care center, not new construction so not LEED certified, but designed and built out using green materials in the construction of a space in a pre-existing building.

I loved to be on-site to watch this build-out happen. The construction crew at the time thought this whole idea of green materials was hilarious and told lots of great jokes about the seaweed acoustic ceiling tiles and cork flooring. Remember, this was an early adoptor moment for a major medical center.

About eight weeks into the job one of the workers came over to me to tell me that, “It’s crazy but he noticed he has less headaches and stuffiness since working on this job”. Teachable moments. Slowly guys would tell me they really felt the difference. No smelly products.

Chemical industry – your argument is weak. This is good health policy and a time when we can remove silos and pass good policy that impacts the public’s health.

The article mentions they’ve already changed some aspects of the Shaheen and Portman bill is S. make it more palatable to the chemical industry. I hope it’s not diluted to being pointless.

My vote is that we use tax dollars to build LEED certified buildings.

Chemical industry – go innovate and design safer materials. Our health depends on it.

   Barbara Glickstein

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