Studies that make connections between toxic products and human health issues speak for themselves, says CEO and technical director of Global GreenTag David Baggs at the launch of the ecolabel’s new Product Health Declaration or PhD tool in Sydney at Total Facilities 2017. Ethically, GreenTag did not want to sit on worrying statistics much longer without doing something about it.
Baggs says, “GreenTag’s PhD is a radical entry into the market but it is also very necessary because it addresses human health concerns directly – we have the first system globally to assess the health impacts of the final product – and not just the hazards of the ingredients.”
Tracking product toxicity is important, says Baggs. Australian businesses lose up to $28 billion annually in lost production and wages due to employee ill health, yet what is largely unknown by Australian business owners is that toxic ingredients hidden in products used in workplace buildings are a significant culprit of workplace sickness.
GreenTag’s PhD, he says, is finally going to push for transparency to disclose risks and hazards in products used in workplaces and in Australian homes too.
Industry observers at the PhD launch (including Kerryn Wilmot, research principal at the Institute for Sustainable Futures at UTS; Robin Mellon, CEO of Supply Chain Sustainability School; Reza Karani, technical marketing and sustainability manager at Tarkett Australia; and Dr Max Deuble, senior ESD consultant at EMF Griffiths) welcomed the new tool and some called it a game changer, particularly for the built environment industry.
The first PhD certificate, Baggs says, has already been issued. Building manufacturer Weathertex were the first to make the leap, and other manufacturers like Amorim Wicanders have also signed on to have their product claims made transparent and examined further.
Also welcoming the PhD for its potential to help transform the Australian building market, Jorge Chapa, head of market transformation at the Green Building Council of Australia states: “When most people spend 90 percent of their time indoors, there is a huge potential for our buildings – and the products within them – to positively influence the health and wellbeing of occupants. We support innovative approaches, like the PhD Product Heath Declaration, that can accelerate market transformation.”
Baggs says GreenTag’s PhD was motivated by a number of studies that have concluded the need for firmer risk mitigation strategies to be brought into the supply chain to help prevent toxic products being used in workplaces and homes. He confirms, “We already know from studies that product toxicity found in buildings is a very real cause behind a range of human health problems – even to unborn babies – including cancer, hormone disruption, asthma, allergies, chronic fatigue and many other toxicity related illnesses.
“Even an ‘indoor environment’ study, published last year by the American Chemical Society, found a concerning combination of chemicals present and leaching or gassing off from products that people take in daily through their skin and airways in a range of typical indoor scenarios.”
Yet, he adds, it has also been proven in a variety of other studies, including a workplace study by Sustainability Victoria that retrofitted its own offices with a range of strategies, including low toxicity products, that employees became healthier as a result.
“Sick leave was reduced by 30 percent and productivity went up an extraordinary 45 percent,” Baggs highlights.
In order to achieve a PhD health certification rating, GreenTag will require manufacturers to provide 100 percent transparency – to 100 parts per million – of any product’s individual ingredients’ toxicity information. The tool will:
- Support product manufacturers “doing the right thing” who are prepared to disclose toxicity information;
- reduce risks for building professionals to confidently make distinctions between products that are safer for human health and those that are not, and make it easier to communicate health related product decisions to clients and building occupiers; and
- respect the rise up of conscious consumers, who studies show want healthier choices and greater access to more authentic product information, which they can trust because “absolute transparency brings total peace of mind”.
For the green building movement, GreenTag’s PhD will be working hand in hand with building rating schemes like the Green Building Council of Australia’s Green Star tools, as well as supporting designers attempting to rate projects through other rating tools with a health focus.
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