26 February 2013 – Evidence keeps mounting that chemicals in our buildings are causing harm and disease in humans, in particular to children, who are most vulnerable to these effects, according to the latest installment in the war against chemicals in our built environment.

The US based Healthy Building Network’s senior researcher Jim Vallette this week reports on an  “exhaustive study” by the World Health Organization and United Nations Environment Programme that “fingers building materials as major sources of endocrine-disrupting chemicals, and calls for the disclosure of chemical contents in products.”

The news comes as the US Green Building Council announced an unexpected sixth public comment period for its LEED V.4 green building rating, which aims to disclose chemicals used in rated buildings.

This development heightened concerns that the LEED credit will be further compromised, Valette reports.

“If ever there was a time to hold the line on the credit, the new WHO/UNEP report makes clear that the time is now.”

The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, a division of the US National Institutes of Health, says: “Endocrine disruptors… may mimic or interfere with the function of hormones in the body.

“Endocrine disruptors may turn on, shut off, or modify signals that hormones carry and thus affect the normal functions of tissues and organs.”[ 1]

The WHO/UNEP report says that over the past decade, “it has become clear that humans, in particular small children, are… exposed to EDCs via dust and particles in indoor environments like homes, schools, childcare centres, and offices…”

“The report notes that a large number of chemicals are used as additives in indoor materials as well as other products found in the home, and these compounds can leak from materials into food or onto dust that is ingested primarily by toddlers and infants.

The chart below, based on the WHO/UNEP report, shows the incidences of diseases associated with endocrine disruption are on the rise.

“This coincides with a rise in the production and use of endocrine disrupting chemicals such as phthalates (from low levels in the 1940s to 3.5 million metric tons/year today) and brominated flame retardants (whose global production doubled from 204,000 tons in 1998 to 410,000 in 2008).[ 2]

“The WHO/UNEP report, State of the Science of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals – 2012, found “exposure to PVC flooring and/or PVC wall covering material was correlated with airway symptoms in children… (and) an association between the concentration of DEHP in indoor dust and asthma and wheezing in children.”

Rising Incidences of Health Impacts Associated with EDCs

Autism

1:110 in 2007

increased from under 5:10,000 in 1970, globally

Childhood Asthma

Doubled in 20 years, to 9.4% in 2010

U.S. children, 0-17 years of age

Testicular Cancer

Up to 400% rise

since 1967 in Baltic countries

Preterm Births

30% increase

since 1981 in US, UK & Scandinavia

Low Birth Weight

19% increase

from 1990 to 2010 in US

Pediatric Brain Cancer

7% increase

from 1995 to 2007 in US

Source: Healthy Buildings Network

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