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Independent Professional: Experienced educator and management consultant for engineering educational institutions, researcher, trainer, technical consultant on sustainable technologies, related to cement manufacturing and characterisation, using industrial and agricultural wastes in cement and concrete, durability of concrete and fuel cell power.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

US congress limits formaldehyde emissions from wood products



The US Congress has approved legislation to limit allowable emissions of formaldehyde from composite wood products, specifically hardwood plywood, particleboard and medium-density fiberboard sold in the United States. The new limits in are based on the levels established for the State of California in 2007 by the California Air Resources Board (CARB)


This is good news for reducing the serious toll that this known carcinogen takes on human health through widespread exposures in homes, offices and schools from building materials. The legislation should serve as a strong wake up call to the industry and help increase availability of low-formaldehyde and formaldehyde-free materials for the green designer. It is, however, only one piece of the puzzle in getting formaldehyde out of our buildings. 



Exemptions abound, including hardboard, structural plywood, structural composite lumber, OSB, glue-lams and wood I-joists, finger-jointed lumber, wood packaging, plus some exceptions for windows, exterior and garage doors, vehicles, boats and aircraft. 


Other important areas of formaldehyde use in building products, such as insulation and textiles, are not addressed by the legislation.


Finally, the new federal legislation reduces formaldehyde emissions but does not eliminate them.  The California Air Resources Board says bluntly that there is no known safe level for this carcinogen and avoidance is the best approach. There is a labeling option in the federal legislation for indicating “no-added formaldehyde-base binder,” but formaldehyde-based binders will still be widespread in products after this legislation goes into effect.

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Monday, June 14, 2010

Beware, these five toxic chemicals are found everywhere




Five everyday chemicals linked to ailments including cancer, sexual problems, behavioral issues: Bisphenol A or BPA; phthalates; Perfluorooctanoic Acid or PFOA; formaldehyde; polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PDBE. Tests reveal most of us now carry them in our bodies


BPA - Bisphenol A

It is found in water bottles, baby bottles, reusable food containers, plastic tableware, infant feeding cups, linings of infant formula cans and other cans, jar lids, CDs, electrical and electronic equipment, dental sealants.

The American Chemistry Council, an industry trade group, says exposure is so low there are no ill health effects. A new five-year Kaiser Permanente study of Chinese factory workers found higher BPA exposure linked to reduced male sexual function. This research joins a growing body of research on animals that suggests BPA poses a potential cancer risk and may mimic the female hormone estrogen and disrupt the extremely sensitive chemical signals in the body called the endocrine system. According to the Food and Drug Administration, BPA could affect the brain, behavior and prostate gland in fetuses, infants and young children.

To reduce exposure, buy stainless steel bottles and glass food storage containers. If you buy plastic, check for the recycle number on the bottom. If there is a number 7, assume the container contains BPA unless it explicitly says otherwise. Switch to fresh or frozen vegetables instead of canned. Other precautions include not microwaving or putting hot liquids in BPA plastic containers and throwing away baby bottles and feeding cups that are scratched.

Phthalates

They are found in shampoos, conditioners, body sprays, hair sprays, perfumes, colognes, soap, nail polish, shower curtains, medical tubing, IV bags, vinyl flooring and wall coverings, food packaging and coatings on time-release pharmaceuticals.

A new study by the Mount Sinai Center for Children's Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Research found a statistical association between prenatal exposure to phthalates and incidence of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder years later. Phthalates are considered endocrine disrupters, and studies have shown a statistical association between phthalate exposure and male sexual development. Research has also shown phthalates disrupt reproductive development of male laboratory animals.

Avoid shampoos, conditioners and other personal care products that list "fragrance" as an ingredient. These may contain phthalates. (Companies are not required to disclose the ingredients in their scents, and the industry says this phthalate is safe.) The federal government recently ended one source of exposure, banning the sale of toys containing any of six phthalates.

Perfluorooctanoic acid, PFOA

PFOA is present in Teflon and other nonstick or stain- and water-repellent coatings as a trace impurity. These coatings are used on cookware, waterproof breathable clothing, furniture and carpets and in a myriad of industrial applications. PFOA can also be produced by the breakdown of these products.

Almost everyone has PFOA in his or her blood. PFOA causes cancer and developmental problems in laboratory animals. The EPA concludes PFOA is suggestive of carcinogenicity but not sufficient to assess human carcinogenic potential.

You can reduce potential exposure by using stainless steel or cast iron cookware. If you use nonstick cookware, do not overheat, which releases toxic gas.

Formaldehyde

It is found in pressed wood products such as particle board, plywood, paneling and fiberboard; also, glues and adhesives and durable press fabrics like drapes.

Formaldehyde is a known human carcinogen, causing cancers of the respiratory or gastrointestinal tract. Formaldehyde fumes can also cause nausea, skin irritation, watery eyes, or burning eyes, nose and throat.



Buy furniture free from formaldehyde eliminates much of the exposure we face from the chemical. One option to reduce "off-gassing": purchase "exterior grade" pressed-wood products, which emit formaldehyde at significantly lower rates. If you have wood products containing formaldehyde, increase ventilation, reduce humidity with air conditioning or dehumidifiers and keep your home cool.

Polybrominated diphenyl ethers, PBDE


PBDEs are found in televisions, computers and wire insulation, and furniture foam. Over time, televisions and other products shed PBDEs, which accumulate in dust. More than 124 million pounds of PBDEs are produced annually worldwide and they do not break down easily.

PBDEs accumulate in the body. Toxicology tests show PDBEs may damage the liver and kidneys and affect the brain and behavior, according to the EPA.


Try to find products without PBDE flame retardants and be sure to sweep up dust.

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Friday, June 4, 2010

Converting CO2 into BPA-free plastics



Researchers say they have identified several classes of organic chemicals that can capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and then be used to make more environmentally benign plastics. Researchers at the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology in Singapore used chemicals called imidazoliums and N-heterocyclic carbenes to couple CO2 with “epoxide” molecules to create polycarbonate plastics that can be used in a variety of applications, from drinking bottles to compact discs. Significantly, in addition to finding a use for carbon dioxide, these polycarbonates do not contain bisphenol A (BPA), a potentially harmful chemical found in most commercial polycarbonate plastics in use today. The imidazolium salts are stable enough that they can repeatedly “grab” CO2 molecules and incorporate them into larger molecules in the plastic-making process, according to a study published in the journal Energy & Environmental Science. The process also eliminates the need for petroleum in the manufacture of plastics.

Ref:  Zhang, Y and J Young Gerentt Chan. 2010. Sustainable chemistry: imidazolium salts in biomass conversion and CO2 fixation. Energy and Environmental Science http://dx.doi.org/10.1039/b914206a.


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