Construction Sector: UNEP Publishes List of Chemicals That Should Be Prohibited

The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) has issued a report, Chemicals of Concern in the Building and Construction Sector, that recommends avoiding the use in the construction sector of chemicals that have been proven to be health risks. Large quantities of these chemicals are used in insulating materials, wood and wood preservatives, paints and coatings, and flame retardants. They also include chemicals that have long been prohibited but that nevertheless continue to enter the environment because of the long lifecycle of buildings and structures. As a result, chemicals used in construction during the 1960s and 1970s can still enter the environment – during demolition, for example. The authors see a particular need in the construction industry.

The selection of chemicals of concern is aligned with the content of the most recent UNEP report, Towards a Pollution-Free Planet.

The authors define three categories of hazardous chemicals:

  • Category 1: Chemicals already prohibited by international agreements like the Stockholm or Rotterdam Conventions
  • Category 2: Chemicals proven to be harmful to health or the environment, but not yet included in the conventions noted above
  • Category 3: Hazardous chemicals with a potential for endocrine-disruption and pending scientific proof

The substances and substance groups to be avoided in the future are listed in categories 1 and 2; these are:

Category 1:

  • amphibole asbestos
  • hexabromobiphenyl (HBB)
  • hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD)
  • mercury compounds
  • ozone-depleting substances
  • pentachlorophenol and related compounds
  • perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) and related substances
  • perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and related substances
  • polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE)
  • polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB)
  • polychlorinated naphthalenes (PCN)
  • short-chain chlorinated paraffins (SCCPs)
  • tributyltin compounds

Category 2:

  • acrylamide
  • arsenic compounds
  • cadmium and its compounds
  • chromium (VI) compounds
  • chrysotile asbestos
  • dechlorane plus
  • diisocyanates
  • lead and its compounds
  • certain nonylphenol and octylphenol ethoxylates
  • certain organotin compounds
  • perfluorohexanesulfonic acid (PFHxS), its salts and PFHxS-related compounds
  • certain phenolic benzotriazoles
  • certain ortho-phthalates
  • certain solvents and volatile organic compounds
  • certain tar compounds
  • tris(2-chloroethyl) phosphate (TCEP)

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