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Built Environment

Our Priorities

Safer States envisions a future where the use of safe, sustainable materials in the built environment is standard practice, and manufacturers consider chemical safety, circularity, climate emissions, and community impacts in safe and sustainable design. It is critical that harmful chemicals are not used in building materials, furniture, or any other products found in the built environment. We work to eliminate harmful chemicals from the built environment and phase out the use of toxic plastics from building materials in favor of safer materials. 

Policies for Addressing: Building Materials/Construction

5 states have introduced 16 policies to protect people from toxic chemicals.
2 state policies have been adopted in 2 states.
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Introduced & Adopted

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Building Materials/Construction: What’s at Stake?

Frequently Asked Questions

What harmful chemicals are found in building materials?

Toxic chemicals like PFAS, methylene chloride, and flame retardants are frequently present in building materials, including particularly toxic plastics like PVC and polystyrene. PFAS can be found in various building products such as roofing materials, paints, sealants, and adhesives. Flame retardants are often unnecessarily added to insulation, textiles, paints, and coatings, despite being toxic. Methylene chloride is a solvent used in paint strippers and other products. PVC (vinyl), commonly used in construction, releases carcinogenic vinyl chloride and toxic dioxins when produced or burned. It also contains harmful additives like phthalates, heavy metals, and BPA.

Why should I be concerned?

Many chemicals used in building materials have not been properly screened for safety and, in many cases, they are associated with serious health conditions such as respiratory issues, allergies, neurological disorders, hormonal imbalances, reproductive problems, and even cancer. Additionally, when these materials are produced, used, or disposed of, they can release hazardous substances into the air, water, and soil, contributing to pollution and environmental damage. 

What is the safer solution?

It is crucial to completely eliminate the use of toxic chemicals in building materials and the built environment. An important step is to revise state building codes to remove the mandatory requirement of toxic flame retardants when fire safety can be achieved without chemicals. Safer States and its partners advocate for a shift away from PVC-based building materials towards safer alternatives such as those identified by Healthy Building Network. Certain cities and states have already started specifying the purchase of non-PVC products, and we anticipate further actions to address the toxic lifecycle of PVC.

News & Insights: Building Materials/Construction