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US NGO calls for avoidance of recycled-content building products

General - Classroom © Alexander Raths - 123rf stock photo

A US NGO is calling for the avoidance of several recycled-content building products unless their contents are fully disclosed and evaluated to be lead-free.

According to Bill Walsh of the Healthy Building Network, there is a "significant regulatory gap" that allows lead-containing building products to be used, including in schools.

And he said that, while lead paint has long been illegal, the law has not caught up with changes in the building industry that incentivise the use of recycled content that can contain lead.

HBN researchers identified products they say to avoid, as they may contain recycled content contaminated by lead and other "toxic substances". These are:

  • recycled vinyl flooring;
  • carpet and ceiling tiles containing fly ash recycled from coal-fired power plants;
  • tyre-derived recycled rubber flooring, often used on playgrounds and in gymnasiums, in which granulated tyres are pressed into resilient flooring tiles;
  • crumb rubber playground mulch, made from ground up tyres; and
  • artificial or synthetic turf in which the ground tyres are pulverised into granules resembling black soil.

Mr Walsh added that Health Product Declarations (HPD) should be provided for all building products. HPD is an industry-supported standard format for reporting product content and associated health hazards.

In a 2015 report, Optimizing Recycling, HBN identifies further steps recycling industry and building product manufacturers can take to reduce lead hazards.

Lead in schools

HBN's recommendations follow publication earlier this month of the report Eliminating Lead Risks in Schools and Child Care Facilities. Published by the Children's Environmental Health Network, Healthy Schools Network and the Learning Disabilities Association of America, this sets out recommendations for reducing lead exposure to children .

These include:

  • improving, promoting, and enforcing regulations and standards such as the EPA’s Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule (RRP);
  • encouraging the private sector to commit to lead-free solutions;
  • identifying sources of lead in schools and child care facilities;
  • pressing for increased government funding to eliminate these exposures.

The Brazilian government recently passed a law limiting lead in products and materials used in buildings visited by children.

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