ATLANTA – In response to recently proposed changes to the LEED Rating System, the GREENGUARD Environmental Institute has launched a public campaign urging the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) to strengthen its credit requirements for low-emitting interiors.
Despite the widely-publicized findings of the April 2010 report by Environment and Human Health Inc.—which criticized the LEED Rating System for ignoring the health impacts of product emissions—the proposed changes to IEQ Credit 4 (known as “EQ Credit: Low-Emitting Interiors”) fail to make product emissions requirements more stringent. In fact, as currently written, the credit allows for infinite emissions of hundreds of potentially harmful chemicals.
Problems with the Proposed Credit
“One of the biggest problems with the proposed credit is that it calls for limits on only a fraction of all potentially hazardous compounds—those identified by California as having ‘Chronic Reference Exposure Levels,’ or CRELs,” explains Mark Rossolo, director of public affairs at the GREENGUARD Environmental Institute. “Unfortunately, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of other potentially toxic compounds and complex mixtures that don’t have CRELs but that still get released into the air from products. These and other oversights in the proposed credit language can put human health and well-being in serious jeopardy.”
Another major problem, Rossolo adds, is the credit’s failure to account for the total level of all volatile organic compounds combined, known as TVOC. Since the potential health implications of exposure to chemicals that have combined, or synergized, are not fully understood, a limit on TVOC would serve as a precautionary measure. Moreover, a limit on TVOC would help minimize exposure to the myriad other chemicals that don’t have CRELs.
“As the global leader in sustainable building practices, the USGBC has a moral and professional responsibility to ensure that LEED raises the bar as high as possible—and that means removing all stops to protecting the health of green building occupants.”
Other drawbacks of the proposed credit include the introduction of complex calculations (which project teams will be responsible for completing), inconsistent chemical emissions criteria (which will lead to confusion and varying degrees of indoor air pollution), and inadequate test methods.
What is the ‘I Pledge’ Campaign?
The “I Pledge” Campaign, launched by the GREENGUARD Environmental Institute, encourages green building and design professionals to take action by submitting a public comment to the USGBC in favor of more stringent product emissions requirements.
Supporters of the campaign can visit www.greenguard.org/pledge and commit to publicly voicing their concerns over the proposed LEED Rating System changes. All they have to do is copy GREENGUARD’s template letter and follow the simple submission instructions online. Or, if they prefer, they can write their own comments echoing GREENGUARD’s concerns.
“Speaking out is free and easy to do, and it’s for a very important cause,” says Rossolo. “We’ve got to ensure that LEED upholds one of the most critical tenets of sustainability: protecting human health.”
For more information about the “I Pledge” Campaign, or to make a pledge, visit www.greenguard.org/pledge.
About GREENGUARD Environmental Institute (GEI)
The GREENGUARD Environmental Institute aims to protect human health and improve quality of life by enhancing indoor air quality and reducing people’s exposure to chemicals and other pollutants. As an ISO-IEC Guide 65:1996 accredited, third-party organization, the GREENGUARD Environmental Institute certifies products and materials for low chemical emissions and provides a resource for choosing healthier products and materials for indoor environments. All certified products must meet stringent chemical emissions standards based on established criteria from key public health agencies. GREENGUARD certification is broadly recognized and accepted by sustainable building programs and building codes worldwide. For more information and a complete listing of certified products, visit www.greenguard.org.