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Do we need labels on eco-labels?

BASF Launches Eco-Label Database for Easy Comparing

Published February 28, 2011
BASF Launches Eco-Label Database for Easy Comparing

FLORHAM PARK, NJ —  In an attempt to get a handle on the numerous eco-labels and ratings systems that have multiplied in recent years, BASF created a database that now includes 100 programs and is growing.

The chemical company says it developed the SELECT Eco-Label Manager so that it and its stakeholders could better manage all the different environmental labels, claims, directories and ratings that have been created or are used by the government, other businesses, trade groups and organizations.

SELECT — standing for Sustainability, Eco-Labeling and Environmental Certification Tracking — lets users search, analyze and compare programs, and is currently only available to BASF employees and certain BASF customers and stakeholders.

”The demand for environmentally preferable products is rapidly evolving and influencing purchasing decisions along entire supply chains,” Pat Meyer, BASF senior product steward and program leader, said in a statement. “These purchasing requirements have spawned hundreds of eco-labels and programs…leading to a lot of confusion.”

The SELECT database has 100 programs in it so far, most related to North America, but BASF says it will keep adding programs from around the world to it.

New Report from Environment and Human Health, Inc: “LEED Certification Where Energy Efficiency Collides with Human Health”

LEED Certification Where Energy Efficiency Collides with Human Health, An EHHI Report

Breast Cancer, What Science Knows, What Women Think

Report Summary

Link to the Full Report

LEED Standards Are Being Adopted into Many Laws

Green Building Council standards are being incorporated into federal, state and local laws through legislation, executive orders, resolutions, policies, loan-granting criteria and tax credits. As demonstrated in this report, LEED standards are clearly insufficient to protect human health, yet they are being adopted by many levels of government as law. Thus the Green Building Council, a trade association for the building industry, is effectively structuring the regulations. The number of jurisdictions adopting these standards as law is growing, which will make them difficult if not impossible to change, unless federal law and regulation supersede the “green” standards with health-protective regulations.

No Federal Definition or Regulation of Green Building Standards

There is no federal definition of “green building standards” analogous to federal “organic food standards” or drinking water standards. Given regulatory neglect, many trade organizations have worked to create their own certification programs, hoping to capture growing demand for environmentally friendly and heath-protective buildings.

Energy Efficiency Given Priority Over Health

The LEED credit system is heavily weighted to encourage energy-efficient building performance. Nearly four times as many credits are awarded as energy conservation technologies and designs (35 possible credits) as for protection of indoor environmental quality from hazardous chemicals (8 possible credits).

Green Building Council Board Has Little Expertise in Environmental Health

Directors of the LEED Program are predominantly engineers, architects, developers, real estate executives, chemical industry officials and building product manufacturers. One medical doctor representing Physicians for Social Responsibility was recently appointed to sit on the board, which has 25 directors.

False Impression of Healthy Buildings

The Green Building Council’s award of “platinum,” “gold”, and “silver” status conveys the false impression of a healthy and safe building environment, even when well-recognized hazardous chemicals exist in building products.

Time Spent Indoors

Americans today are spending more than 90 percent of their time indoors. The EPA spends the majority of its resources working to manage outdoor threats to environmental quality and human health.

Tighter Buildings Increase Human Exposure

Energy conservation efforts have made buildings tighter, often reducing air exchange between the indoors and outdoors. Since outdoor air is often cleaner than indoor air, the reduction of outdoor-indoor exchange tends to concentrate particles, gases and other chemicals that can lead to more intense human exposures than would be experienced in better-ventilated environments.

However, the LEED program has been effective in encouraging more efficient heating and ventilation techniques, such as solar panels, geothermal wells, window placement and building orientation.

Toxic Chemicals in Built Environments

Tens of thousands of different building materials and products are now sold in global markets. Many of these products contain chemicals recognized by the U.S. National Toxicology Program, the CDC, or the World Health Organization to be hazardous.

These products include pesticides, chemical components of plastics, flame retardants, metals, solvents, adhesives and stain-resistant applications.

Some are carcinogens, neurotoxins, hormone mimics, reproductive toxins, developmental toxins, or chemicals that either stimulate or suppress the immune system.

Chemicals in Buildings Are Often Found in Human Tissues

The CDC began testing human tissues to determine the presence of some chemical ingredients of building materials. Most individuals whose tissues were tested carried dozens of these chemicals in their hair, blood or urine. Children often carry higher concentrations than adults. Chemicals released by building materials to indoor environments may be inhaled, ingested or absorbed through the skin.

No Level of LEED Certification Assures Health Protection

It is possible for new construction to be certified at the “platinum” level with no credits awarded for air quality assurance in the category “indoor environmental quality.”

Link to the Full Report

Informative article describes backlash against dubious “green” labels.

Informative article describes backlash against dubious “green” labels.

Posted by Evan Beach at May 25, 2010 10:00 AM | Permalink

The Wall Street Journal provides an in-depth look at a recent controversy over “green” labeling in the United States.

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An article by Vanessa O’Connell in the Wall Street Journal discusses rising consumer interest in environmentally friendly products, the dubious claims made by manufacturers and the resulting lawsuits and government actions. The story sheds light on a growing concern about false advertising, but it would have benefited from further discussion of government efforts to remedy the situation.

The article describes how the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is attempting to referee various seals of approval, eco-labels and other marketing schemes that advertise green benefits like biodegradability. The FTC’s Green Guides for manufacturers provide some guidance but have not been revised since 1998. A current review of the outdated guides may address some of the marketing changes since then.

The story also shows how transparency with respect to self-endorsement or third-party approvals has become an issue. For example, SC Johnson’s Greenlist program won a Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), yet the way the Greenlist system is applied to products remains proprietary and the labels are added at the company’s sole discretion.

Other government agencies are taking steps to address the concerns highlighted in the article. For example, the EPA’s Design for the Environment Program (DfE) offers labels for a variety of consumer products deemed to be best-in-class. The DfE scheme calls for continuous improvement in eco-friendly attributes and is based on strict, transparent criteria. Legislation introduced earlier in April would give the EPA greater authority to recognize safer alternatives to hazardous products in this way.

By mentioning these intitiatives, the reporter would have added important information for consumers who are concerned about the issue of false claims.

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