As asthma rates continue to rise, the Healthy Building Network (HBN) warns that new preventive strategies are needed to address this epidemic at its source. This includes avoiding the many building materials introducing asthma-causing chemicals into indoor environment. The materials include flooring, carpets, insulation and paints with chemicals that can cause the development of asthma.
This information has been released in the new HBN report, “Full Disclosure Required: A Strategy to Prevent Asthma Through Building Product Selection”, which reveals that many building materials can cause the development of asthma. HBN says that building occupants can be exposed to 20 asthmagens commonly found in these products.
“Many building materials like flooring, carpets, insulation and paints, contain asthmagens—chemicals that are linked to asthma—as well as chemicals that can trigger asthma attacks,” explains Ted Schettler, MD, MPH from the Science and Environmental Health Network. “The HBN report also identifies chemicals llnked to impairment of early development of the lungs and immune systems in children.”
Bill Walsh, executive director for Healthy Building Network, explains: “The Healthy Building Network has created a database called the Pharos Project that helps building owners and consumers identify hazardous chemicals in building materials, and healthier alternatives. Some owners asked to look us to look specifically at whether these products might be contributing to the asthma epidemic. We consulted Pharos and then reviewed extensive scientific studies about asthmagens that are present in building products. Our research found that occupants have a high likelihood of exposure to twenty top-priority asthmagens in these materials.”
Cecil Corbin-Mark, deputy director/director of Policy Initiatives with WEACT for Environmental Justice, Harlem, comments: “People of color are disproportionately impacted by chemicals anyway from consumer products and living in communities where toxic emissions are more prevalent. We know that children of color have disproportionately higher rates of asthma. We need to really prevent exposure from any substance that causes asthma. Being mindful of, for example, of preventing exposure to vinyl flooring and carpet with stain resistant chemicals, could be a good start for reducing the development of asthma in children. Chemical policy must be reformed to have real environmental health protections, and to prevent these chemicals from being allowed in the marketplace to end up in products we use.”
Yianice Hernandez, director of Enterprise Green Communities, oversees Enterprise Community Partner’s comprehensive research and evaluation of the economic, environmental and health benefits of green affordable housing. She comments: “This new report underscores the need to provide thorough research to identify the safest materials to use in buildings, particularly homes for families. Housing has been legendary for hazards, including other toxic threats such as lead in paint. Now, people who design affordable housing need to pay close attention to materials with chemicals that can trigger asthma and other illness, particularly in children and people who are most vulnerable.”
“While we are still working to identify the combination of environmental exposures that have contributed to the rising prevalence of asthma in children, emerging science demonstrates a strong link to some chemicals commonly found in the environment and asthma development and exacerbation. We need to commit resources to continued research into environmental exposures that, once identified and removed, can prevent children from suffering with asthma,” says Matthew Perzanowski, Ph.D., health researcher and investigator with Columbia Children’s Center for Environmental Health.
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