A newly released report by the US Department of Health and Human Services shows that three very common building materials have now been added to the cancer list. Among the 8 chemicals that were added to the list are some that are in most of our buildings – formaldehyde was bumped up to be a known cause of cancer and styrene and certain insulation fibers are now officially suspected carcinogens. So with this new information in hand, what products should we worry about most? Read on as we dig into the report to see what the real health impacts can be.
The chemicals listed by the HHS report include materials “reasonably anticipated to be human carcinogens” such as cobalt carbide-tungston used in tools, the fungicide Captafol, the synthetic dye Ortho-Nitrotoluene, and the plant extract Riddelliine. Along with formaldehyde, Aristolochic acid found in some herbal medications is determined to cause cancer . What caught our eye was that three of these materials are typically found in most of our homes.
The most common of those is formaldehyde, the ubiquitous and cheap binding agent loaded with VOCs used in many laminate boards, paints and solvents, synthetic fibers, plastics – and the list goes on. The official determination that formaldehyde is not just an irritant but actually carcinogenic should set off alarm bells throughout the building and design industry. Programs like Green Guard make it a lot easier nowadays to find safe products so there is no longer an excuse to introduce formaldehyde into our homes, workplaces and schools.