New LEED Pilot Credits Advance While Chemical Data Gap Looms
By Bill Walsh, Executive Director
Last year the USGBC introduced two new Pilot Credits that reward precautionary action, the avoidance of certain classes of chemicals in the face of mounting evidence that they present significant threats to human health. Industry trade groups fought these measures as they fight all chemical regulation, with the argument restrictions or disincentives against chemical use must be based upon "sound science" that proves the connection between a specific chemical and a specific health problem beyond a shadow of a doubt. But due to a catch-22 in current US law, the EPA must prove potential risk or widespread exposure before it can get the data it needs to determine the extent of hazard, exposure or risk. If we want to make green buildings healthy buildings, merely following the law will lead us in circles.
To fully appreciate the importance of precautionary measures such as the LEED Pilot Credits, consider the failure of the chemical industry's voluntary effort to provide EPA with information about High Production Volume (HPV) chemicals - chemicals produced or imported into the US at volumes in excess of 1 million pounds per year. In the early 1980s, the National Academy of Sciences' National Research Council found that 78% of the chemicals in highest-volume commercial use had not had even "minimal" toxicity testing. Thirteen years later, a comprehensive report by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) found no significant improvement: "even the most basic toxicity testing results cannot be found in the public record for nearly 75% of the top-volume chemicals in commercial use." ...
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