Group Developing Product Emissions Standard for Indoor Environments

The GREENGUARD Environmental Institute (GEI) has announced initiation of its comprehensive product emissions standard for indoor products. Indoor air is known to be 2-5 times more polluted than outdoor air. In newly constructed homes and buildings, levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and formaldehyde can be significantly higher. Exposure to these pollutants can lead to short-term irritation and discomfort and long-term exposure can lead to more serious health concerns.

The majority of indoor pollutants, particularly VOCs, originate from the building materials, finishes and furnishings that are used to construct, furnish and operate our homes and buildings. With the current demand for decreasing energy usage, buildings are becoming tighter which means there is minimal airflow to dilute and flush out these pollutants. As a result, minimizing (and even eliminating) sources of indoor pollution is the best preventative measure.

Source control is the most effective way of reducing indoor air pollutants. There are many low-emitting products in the market, and incoming data from LEED Certified Buildings where these products are being used is showing that the quality of indoor air is significantly improving," stated Dr. Marilyn Black, Founder of GEI. "Healthy indoor environments are a requirement for green, high performance buildings."

While LEED and healthy building design were initially focused on commercial environments, there has been rapid growth extending to educational, healthcare and residential environments. In addition, there are expanded scientific principles for assessing a product's acceptability for the indoor air.

GEI has initiated standards action to develop a broader health-based standard that is applicable to a wide range of products used in all environments -- schools, homes, hospitals, extended care facilities and commercial space. This consensus standard development will be open for all interested stakeholders. The new standard will harmonize assessment parameters for determining a product's impact on indoor air. It will also be health-based, requiring that a product's emissions be held to both acute (short-term) and chronic (long-term) criteria. Levels of acceptability will be based on the CA 1350 requirements in addition to recommended health-based criteria from other national agencies and organizations with missions to protect human health.

GEI introduced its first low emission standard for office furniture and indoor materials in 2002. In 2005, GEI introduced its more stringent Children and Schools standard designed to be protective of children and sensitive populations. This was the first certification program to include California 1350 chemical exposure requirements based on chronic reference exposure levels (CRELs). The new standard will be the first of its kind, encompassing a broad range of stringent health criteria, with applicability across the total indoor environment.

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