Things to Avoid
The Environmental Health Coalition has published a list of the top
four categories of chemical groups that should be avoided and eliminated
in order to solve our environmental and health problems. In their publication,
Toxic Turnaround, the case is made for the elimination of these
substances and chemical groups. It has been recommended by Annie Berthold-Bond
in her publication Better Basics for the Home that a fifth category,
plastics, be added to the list. A summary of both lists is included below,
with information about building materials added by greenexhibts.org.
This category includes pesticides, herbicides and
fungicides, which are contained in many building materials, especially
paints and finishes. The EPA's list of probable or possible carcinogens
in this category is extensive, including 60 percent of the registered
herbicides, 90 percent of the registered fungicides, and 30 percent
of insecticides. Significant documentation suggests that pesticides
can alter immune function, interrupt the endocrine system and cause
depression of the central nervous system.
- Toxic Gases, such
as Chlorine and Ammonia
Chlorine bleach, commonly used by childcare
centers and children's museums for cleaning exhibits, is a moderately
toxic chlorine salt. It is especially dangerous when combined with
ammonia or vinegar, causing toxic gases to be released. Chlorine
bleach bonds with other chemicals in the wastewater stream to form
simple organochlorines, which cause cancer and endocrine disruption.
Ammonia is poisonous, corrosive and explosive and considered a suspected
- Heavy metals
Heavy metals are highly toxic to human health
and the environment. Many materials used in welding, plating, soldering
are extremely dangerous, and the gases that are produced during metalwork
are even more dangerous. Metal manufacturing and metalworking processes
are almost all extremely toxic. Both lead and mercury are considered
carcinogens, mutagens and poisons. Exposure to lead can cause loss of
IQ, fatigue, sleep disturbances, brain, kidney damage and death. Mercury
poisoning can cause brain damage, irritability, kidney disease, memory
loss and death. For a complete list of health hazards related to metals,
go to www.ci.tucson.az.us/arthazards/home.html,
and click on metalworking.
- Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC's)
These compounds contain
harmful chemicals that are released into the atmosphere following a
chemical reaction, causing ground-level ozone and contribute to indoor
aid pollution. Formaldehyde and solvents are VOC's and some of the
most dangerous pollutants in building products. Formaldehyde is added
to products for preservation purposes and is typically found in such
substances as carpeting, paints, particle board, plywood, sealants,
adhesives, and fabrics. VOC's include carcinogens, endocrine disruptors
and central nervous system disrupters.
Considerable attention has been focused on the use
of phthalates in children's toys over the past several years. Typically
used as a softener in most plastics on the market, including plastic
kids' toys, vinyl flooring, and plastic tubing, phthalates are also
found in numerous building products including fixatives, lubricants,
adhesives and wood finishes, to help slow down evaporation. In recent
years, there has been significant research indicating that phthalates
are potentially toxic to fetal development and young immune systems.
Polyvinylchloride, or PVC and styrene should also be avoided.