Harmful Chemicals in Building Products

This section looks at issues concerning potentially harmful chemicals that are embedded in certain housing products commonly used during retrofits. Products examined include those used in residential housing — whether for energy efficiency or other purposes — if there are questions raised regarding toxicity to occupants or installers.

While product selection can involve many factors — price, availability, functionality, comfort and design being a few — we want to expand this list to ask: are there health risks associated with this product?

All too often the answer is possibly yes — and especially for children, who are more susceptible to negative impacts from chemical exposure.

Chemicals are widely used in manufacturing housing products.  In all cases we must ask:

  • Is this chemical needed?
  • Is there a safer chemical that could be used to replace its functionality?
  • If no safer chemical exists, why not?

Our goal must be to move toward eliminating the use of hazardous chemicals. 

The information provided in the product categories below is designed to help users understand:

  • Chemicals in building products that may be harmful to occupants and installers;
  • What products and materials may contain these chemicals;
  • Potential health hazards from these chemicals or materials;
  • Opportunities to reduce or eliminate exposure to these harmful chemicals; and
  • Products and processes that can help keep toxins out of a home’s air and water.