Toxic Chemistry: Chemicals in Construction

 

Introduction

Introduction: Toxins and Toxicology

Only since WWII has toxicology made any impact on chronic chemical poisoning. With a vast number of compounds at large, regulation can only play catch-up.

 

Regulations and Prohibitions

The REACH Regulation

REACH is a European Union regulation concerning the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation & restriction of CHemicals.

The Substitute it Now! (SIN) list

The SIN list is a list of chemicals judged by the environmental NGO Chemsec to be Substances of Very High Concern (SVHCs).

The 'Red List' of materials
The International Living Building Institute, a US-based sustainable building certification programme, has developed the ‘Red List’ of materials that are not to be used in construction.

 

Hazardous chemicals in construction and associated products

Alkylphenol
Alkylphenols are a component in phenolic resins, but they can also be found in adhesives, paints and coatings and high performance rubber products..
Asbestos
The history of the use of asbestos culminated in one of the greatest public health tragedies of modern times. Exposure to the former wonder mineral continues to be the cause of one of the most pernicious forms of cancer.
Bisphenol A
Bisphenol A is used as a hardener in making polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins. Common BPA products include water bottles, baby bottles, food storage containers, household electronics, plastic lenses and DVDs.
Cadmium
Most commonly used in the production of nickel-cadmium (Ni-Cd) rechargeable batteries and as a sacrificial corrosion-protection coating for iron and steel. Other uses include alloys, coatings (electroplating), solar cells, plastic stabilisers, and pigments.
Chlorinated Polyethylene (CPE)
CPE is a versatile material that when compounded with other materials, achieves different properties and products. It is widely used as a thermoplastic elastomer (TPE), rubber and modifier for resins (PVC, PE and ABS)
Chlorobenzene
Chlorobenzene's most high-profile application was in the production of the pesticide DDT. Modern uses are as a solvent in the manufacture of adhesives, paints, paint removers, polishes, dyes, and drugs.
Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)
CR is used mainly in the rubber industry but is also important as a raw material for adhesives and has different latex applications such as moulded foam, rubber sheeting, sound insulation and gaskets.
Chloroprene
CR is used mainly in the rubber industry but is also important as a raw material for adhesives and has different latex applications such as moulded foam, rubber sheeting, sound insulation and gaskets.
Chlorosulfonated polyethylene (CSPE)
CSPE’s weatherability, UV stability and adhesion capability have made this material very popular as a commercial roofing material. Other applications include wire and cable sheathing and paint.
Formaldehyde
Formaldehyde is used in a wide spectrum of products.  In construction, formaldehyde is still widely used as a binder in insulation products as well as commonly as an adhesive in wood panel products.
Halogenated flame retardants
Flame retardants (FR) are compounds that when added to manufactured materials, such as plastics and textiles, and surface finishes and coatings that inhibit, suppress, or delay the production of flames to prevent the spread of fire.
Hexavalent chromium (aka Chromium-6 )
It's corrosion resistance make it a first choice as an alloy or plating in the production of stainless steel. Hexavalent chromium is used to produce CCA (chromated copper arsenate) that is applied as a preservative in the treatment of structural timber.
Lead
Lead comes with a long history of use, but in recent times we have become aware of its potential to render harm to humans. However, it still plays a role in the construction industry, primarily in roofing applications.
Mercury
Though previously applied to a wide spectrum of products and processes, mercury's toxicity has become highly restrictive of general useage.
Perfluorinated Compounds (PFCs)
PFCs are used to make stain, heat and water-resistant products including fire protection agents, floor polishes and paints. They are also used to manufacture non-stick coatings.
Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs)
PCBs are synthetic organic chemicals that were manufactured for use in various industrial and commercial applications - including oil in electrical and hydraulic equipment, and plasticisers in paints, plastics and rubber products. Useage has become severley restricted in recent years.
Polyvinyl chloride (PVC)
Such is the height of the PVC industry's econmic profile, that critiicism from GreenPeace and others has provoked the producers of PVC into a series of intense and acrimonius confrontations.
Polyvinylidene Chloride (PVDC)
Polyvinylidene Chloride is synthesised from ethylene dichloride. Introduced by DOW Chemicals in 1939, the PVDC monomer is used in the manufacture of barrier coatings, fibres and plastics.
Pthalates
Phthalates are esters of phthalic acid and are most commonly found in plastics, and primarily, in PVC as plasticisers to increase their flexibility, transparency, durability and longevity.
Short-Chain Chlorinated Paraffins (SCCPs) (aka Chlorinated alkanes)
SCCPs are found world-wide in the environment, wildlife and humans. They are bioaccumulative in wildlife and humans, are persistent and transported globally through the environment

 

Possibly hazardous materials and products

Vinyl (PVC) Flooring and Pregnancy

Women exposed to high levels of a chemical commonly used in vinyl flooring and PVC are more likely to have high blood pressure during pregnancy​

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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