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The Red List

One of the hardest things about targeting the Living Building Challenge is making sure that ALL the products and materials that we use in the house are Red List compliant. BUT WHY.........why can't we use products that contain materials on the Red List. It is really important to understand not only what is going into your home (and therefore going to affect your health) but how your product selections will affect other people (ie the people who work for the manufacturers) and our little blue planet in general.

So with that in mind we are going to summarise below some information from the most excellent www.greenspec.co.uk website on the products and materials that are on the Red List. 


Alkylphenol compouds are a component in phenolic resins and are also used in the manufacture of thermoplastic elastomers, antioxidants and fire retardants. Another alkylphenol derivative, alkylphenol phosphite, can be used as a UV stabiliser in plastics. Further downstream in other compounds they can be found in adhesives, paints and coatings and high performance rubber products.

Octyphenols are being found in the environment, particularly in water, where they are easily soluble. OPEs are known to be very toxic to wildlife, particularly aquatic organisms. There is also concern that they mimic the behaviour of animal hormones, that they are an "endocrine disruptor". OPEs break down relatively easily into Octylphenols (OPs), which are more harmful and can be very persistent in the environment. This persistence means that they can be transported far from the point of original release of OPEs. OPs are accumulated and concentrated by aquatic organisms and birds. It is therefore possible that the presence of OPEs and hence OPs in the environment poses a long-term threat to wildlife on both a local and global scale.


Asbestos is a set of six naturally occurring silicate minerals: chrysotile, amosite, crocidolite, tremolite, anthophyllite and actinolite. They are more commonly known by their colours such as 'blue asbestos', 'white asbestos', 'brown asbestos' etc. Asbestos is cheap, durable, flexible and acts naturally as an insulating and fireproofing agent. In general, exposure only occurs when the asbestos-containing material is disturbed or damaged in some way to release particles and fibres into the air. In the NZ where the use of asbestos in new work is banned, the usual route to exposure is through building demolition. There is no 'safe' level of asbestos exposure for any type of asbestos. Asbestos exposures as short in duration as a few days have caused mesothelioma in humans. Every occupational exposure to asbestos can cause injury or disease; every occupational exposure to asbestos contributes to the risk of getting an asbestos related disease.

The four major health effects associated with asbestos exposure are:     

• lung cancer    

• mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer that is found in the thin lining of the lung, chest and the abdomen and heart    

• asbestosis, a serious progressive, long-term, non-cancer disease of the lungs (currently increasing annually in the UK)     

• Non-malignant pleural disease, a diffuse pleural thickening and pleural plaques) 

Bisphenol A (BPA)

Bisphenol A has been in commercial use since 1957. It 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, DVDs. Epoxy resins containing BPA are used to line failing water pipes and as a coating inside of many food and drinks containers. Bisphenol A can sometimes be found as an antioxidant in flexible PVC.

'BPA can enter the environment either directly from chemical, plastics coat and staining manufacturers, from paper or material recycling companies, foundries who use BPA in casting sand, or indirectly leaching from plastic, paper and metal waste in landfills. BPA affects growth, reproduction, and development in aquatic organisms. Among freshwater organisms, fish appear to be the most sensitive species. Evidence of endocrine-related effects in fish, aquatic invertebrates, amphibians, and reptiles has been reported at environmentally relevant exposure levels lower than those required for acute toxicity.'  Bisphenol A is an endocrine disruptor - a substance which interferes with the production, secretion, transport, action, function and elimination of natural hormones. BPA can imitate our body's own hormones in a way that could be hazardous for health. Babies and young children are said to be especially sensitive to the effects of BPA. The main risks are thought to occur from the ingestion of BPA through food and liquid contact with polycarbonate containers as well as linings of food and drink containers as well as the lining of water pipes with epoxy resin.


Cadmium is an extremely toxic metal.The most common use of cadmium in industry is 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. The health effects associated with cadmium exposure depend on the way people are exposed to cadmium, how much has entered the person's body, how long the person has been exposed for and how the person's body responds to the exposure. Once cadmium enters the body, it is stored in the liver and kidneys, and then slowly excreted in urine. Breathing air with high levels of cadmium over a short period of time is initially like the flu with chills, fever and muscle pain, then later can cause lung damage, shortness of breath, chest pain and cough, which may lead to death in severe cases. Breathing lower levels of cadmium over a longer period of time can lead to kidney disease and cause bones to become weaker. If swallowed it can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and muscle cramps. Certain cadmium compounds, including chloride, sulfate and oxide compounds, have been shown to cause cancer in animals.

Chlorinated Polyethylene and Chlorosulfonated Polyethlene

Chlorinated Polyethylene is a family of thermoplastics that are produced by the chlorination of high-density polyethylene.  It is widely used as a thermoplastic elastomer (TPE), rubber and modifier for resins (PVC, PE and ABS).  Its main use is as an impact modifier that improves the impact resistance and lowers the cost of rigid and otherwise brittle (unplasticised) PVC. Building products include rainwater goods, below ground drainage, profiles, doors and windows. Known emissions resulting from combustion include carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and hydrogen chloride.


Not occurring naturally, Chlorobenzene is a colourless, volatile, water-insoluble, flammable liquid with a penetrating smell of almonds. Chlorobenzene's most high-profile application has been in the production of the pesticide DDT through the reaction with chloral (trichloroacetaldehyde) in the presence of sulfuric acid. The major use of chlorobenzene is as an intermediate in the production of commodities such as herbicides, dyestuffs, and rubber. Chlorobenzene is also used as a high-boiling solvent in the manufacture of adhesives, paints, paint removers, polishes, dyes, and drugs. In construction it is used in the manufacture of polyurethane insulation (via the production of diisocyanate). Chlorobenzene can evaporate when exposed to air. It dissolves slightly when mixed with water. Most releases of chlorobenzene to the U.S. environment are to air. chlorobenzene also can evaporate from water and soil exposed to air. Once in air, chlorobenzene breaks down to other chemicals. Because it is a liquid that does not bind well to soil, chlorobenzene that makes its way into the ground can move through the ground and enter groundwater. Plants and animals are not likely to store chlorobenzene

Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs)

Chlorofluorocarbons are a family of halocarbons that contain only carbon, chlorine and fluorine. An important subclass are hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) that carry hydrogen as well. They served as brief replacements for CFC. Very little chlorine exists naturally in the atmosphere – but CFCs are an efficient way of introducing it into the ozone layer. Ultraviolet (UV) radiation, at the ozone stratospheric height of between 20 to 30 kilometres (12 to 19 mi) above Earth, breaks down the CFC and releases the chlorine. Under particular conditions, the chlorine can destroy large amounts of ozone. Such conditions have repeatedly occurred over the Antarctic causing the ‘Hole in the ozone layer’. Consequently the Earth’s surface is exposed to genetically harmful radiation. CFCs have an atmospheric lifetime of 20 – 100 years. One free chlorine atom from a CFC molecule can destroy large amounts of ozone molecules over that time – and will continue to do so for well into this century

Chloroprene (Neoprene)

Polychloroprene or Chloroprene Rubber (CR), first produced in 1932, is better known as ‘Neoprene and was one of the first oil resistant synthetic rubbers. CR is used in different areas, mainly in the rubber industry but is also important as a raw material for adhesives (both solvent and water-based) and has different latex applications such as moulded foam, multipurpose rubber sheeting, sound insulation, gaskets and improvement of bitumen. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified chloroprene as a Group 2B, possibly carcinogenic to humans.

Chromium VI

Chromium is a lustrous, brittle, hard metal. Its colour is silver-grey and it can be highly polished. It does not tarnish in air, when heated it burns and forms the green chromic oxide. Chromium is unstable in oxygen, it immediately produces a thin oxide layer that is impermeable to oxygen and protects the metal below. The most common forms of chromium in the environment are trivalent chromium (chromium-3), hexavalent chromium (chromium-6) and the metal form of chromium (chromium-0). However, its ease of reaction with other elements is the main reason why hexavalent chromium is considered a major health hazard. Its properties include corrosion-resistance, durability and hardness. It is used in chrome plating and as an alloy in the production of stainless steel, as well as in anti-corrosion and conversion coatings. exavalent chromium is used to produce CCA (chromated copper arsenate) that is applied as a preservative in the treatment of structural timber. The use of chromium in welding produces hexavalent chromium as a by-product. Hexavalent chromium is classified as a human carcinogen based on excess lung cancer found in heavily exposed workers through inhalation in chrome plating and chromate pigment production.

The Living House found out that Chromium VI is use as a protective coating on rolled steel products from NZ steel. Products like Dimondek, Tray dek etc

Chlorinated Polyvinyl Chloride (CPVC) & Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)

The PVC industry has done much to reduce its overall environmental impact, but critics stand firm in pointing out that the manufacture and some methods of disposal are inherently dangerous, and, as their argument goes, however low the risk of release to the environment of toxic chemicals, it is a risk that society need not, and should not, take. PVC without additives is inert, but risks become and issue when it is combined with additives. The salient concern is with the phthalate family of plasticers, and, in particular DHEP (diethylhexyl phthalate), which has historically been the main plasticiser by volume. DHEP can be released to air from plastic materials, coatings, and flooring and can lead to high indoor concentrations which are considered highly toxic. DHEP has recently become effectively proscribed in Europe as a result of its being added to the REACH 'Authorisation List' along with other phthalates BBP and DBP.

Alternative plasticisers are now finding there way into PVC, primarily the phthalates DINP and DEDP, but their potential health risks of are largely unknown, due to the lack of toxicological data publicly available. The destination for most redundant PVC in the NZ is landfill. The concern is that additives including plasticisers and metal-based stabilisers will leach from the PVC into the environment. The recognised potential is greatest for flexible PVC products, such as floor coverings, that carry the greater amount of additives by weight. Research 5 , however, would suggest that leaching of chemicals of concern in landfill settings does occur but in most cases is minimal. In those cases where releases of chemicals of were increased, high temperatures and acidic conditions were required. An obvious route to minimising the overall potential environmental impact of PVC is through recycling pre- and post-consumer waste. Rather than heading for landfill or incineration, waste PVC is returned to manufacturers as raw material for forming into new products. The 'loop' avoids the dangers associated with the creation of VC at the outset and the impacts of disposal at end-of-life.

Formaldehyde (added)

Formaldehyde is used in a wide spectrum of products. Examples include shampoo, lipstick, nail polish, some glues, ink, paint and wrinkle-free fabrics. In construction, formaldehyde is still widely used as a binder in insulation products as well as commonly as an adhesive in wood panel products.


The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) describes formaldehyde as causing '…watery eyes, burning sensations in the eyes and throat, nausea, and difficulty in breathing in some humans exposed at elevated levels (above 0.1 parts per million). High concentrations may trigger attacks in people with asthma. There is evidence that some people can develop a sensitivity to formaldehyde. It has also been shown to cause cancer in animals and may cause cancer in humans. Health effects include eye, nose, and throat irritation; wheezing and coughing; fatigue; skin rash; severe allergic reactions.


'Indoor air levels of formaldehyde are not generally the subject of official regulations. However the generally accepted guideline figure for the amount of formaldehyde that should not be exceeded in ambient air from all formaldehyde emitting sources is 0.1 milligramme per cubic metre of air (equivalent to about 0.08ppm) measured over a 30 minute reference period (WHO, 2000). The overall conclusion of the survey was that formaldehyde exposure in the home is likely to be of concern only in new homes but where after a year following construction, concentration reduced considerably. 'Even so, there are clear implications for mitigation of exposure and these are consistent with current thinking derived from other work' including: 'use (of) low-emission materials in the construction and furnishing of homes, and ensur(ing) good ventilation, especially during construction and the first year of occupancy;'

Halogenated Flame Retardants (HFRs)

Bromine, chlorine, fluorine and iodine, are the elements in the chemical group known as halogens.  Flame retardants are found at increasing levels in household dust, human blood and breast milk, and wild animals. The chemicals are widely distributed in the outdoor environment with the highest concentrations in the Arctic and marine mammals. Many halogenated flame retardants are found to be persistent (meaning that the compounds do not break down into safer chemicals in the environment through time), bioaccumalative (meaning that the compounds accumulate in plants and animals and become more concentrated as they move up the food chain)  and/or toxic (PBT). The main construction materials affected are extruded polystyrene (XPS) and expanded polystyrene (EPS) insulation. The main halogenated retardant used used in these materials until recently was a brominated retardant called HBCD or Hexabromocyclododecane. This has been replaced or is shortly to be replaced in most products by compounds claimed to be safer.

Lead (added)

Lead is extremely toxic. There is no such thing as a 'too smaller dose'. In adults, occupational exposure is the main cause of lead poisoning. People can be exposed when working in facilities that produce a variety of lead-containing products eg radiation shields, circuit boards and ceramic glazes. In addition, lead smelters, glass manufacturers, construction workers (including roofers and plumbers), battery manufacturers and recyclers (the largest single group under medical surveillance) are all at risk.


About 80% of use, both as the metal and as the dioxide, continues to be in lead-acid batteries. Other uses are lead roof covering and lead flashing, • cable covering, as ammunition, as electrodes and in solder, shielding from radiation, e.g. in x-ray rooms and nuclear reactors, lead oxide is also used in the manufacture of crystal glass.


Mercury and most of its compounds are extremely toxic. Mercury poisoning can result from exposure to water-soluble forms of mercury (such as mercuric chloride or methylmercury), inhalation of mercury vapour, or, the most common exposure, eating seafood contaminated with mercury. Toxic effects include damage to the brain, kidneys and lungs. Mercury poisoning can result in several diseases, including acrodynia (pink disease), Hunter-Russell syndrome and Minamata disease. Symptoms typically include sensory impairment (vision, hearing, speech), disturbed sensation and a lack of coordination. The type and degree of symptoms exhibited depend upon the individual toxin, the dose, and the method and duration of exposure.

Mercury is now mainly used in the chemical industry as catalysts. It is also used in some electrical switches and rectifiers.

Perfluorinated Compounds (PFCs)

Long-chain PFCs are found world-wide in the environment, wildlife, and humans. They are bioaccumulative in wildlife and humans, and are persistent in the environment. They are toxic to laboratory animals and wildlife, producing reproductive, developmental, and systemic effects in laboratory tests. To date, significant adverse effects have not been found in the general human population. However, given the long half-life of these chemicals in humans (years), it can reasonably be anticipated that continued exposure could increase body burdens to levels that would result in adverse outcomes.

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. Familiar trade names that include Teflon, Scotchguard, Stainmaster and Gore-tex

Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs)

Polychlorinated Biphenyls (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 - because of their non-flammability, chemical stability, high boiling point and electrical insulation properties.

Due to PCBs' environmental toxicity and classification as a persistent organic pollutant, PCB production was banned by the United States Congress in 1979 and by the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants in 2001. In the UK, closed uses of PCBs in new equipment were banned in 1981, when nearly all UK PCB synthesis ceased, but closed uses in existing equipment containing in excess of 5 litres of PCBs were not stopped until December 2000. PCBs are also banned in New Zealand.


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


Phthalates are suspected of disrupting hormones and may be related to several chronic diseases in children, like asthma and allergies, as shown in earlier studies. Flooring materials using softened PVC contain phthalates and have previously been shown to be a significant source of phthalates in indoor dust. Diet is believed to be the main source DEHP and other phthalates in the general population. Fatty foods such as milk, butter, and meats are a major source.

Short Chain Chlorinated Paraffins

Chronic Health Effects Chlorinated paraffins (average chain length C12; approx. 60% chlorine by weight) are listed on the International Agency for Research on Cancer's (IARC) Carcinogen List as "Possible Carcinogens." On the U.S. National Toxicology Program (NTP) Carcinogen List they are listed as "Reasonably Anticipated to Be a Carcinogen

The largest use of SCCPs is as a component of lubricants and coolants in metal cutting and metal forming operations. The second-largest use is as both a secondary plasticizer and a flame retardant in plastics, especially PVC. Other minor domestic SCCP uses are as a plasticizer and a flame-retardant additive to a variety of products including: rubber formulations, paints and other coatings, and adhesives and sealants. SCCPs are found world-wide in the environment, wildlife and humans. They are bioaccumulative in wildlife and humans, are persistent and transported globally in the environment, and toxic to aquatic organisms at low concentrations. Although data is limited, the major sources of release of SCCPs are likely the formulation and manufacturing of products containing SCCPs, such as PVC, other plastics, paints, sealants, etc. and facility wash-down of spent metalworking fluids – these to mainly urban/industrial soil and waste water.

Polyvinylidene Chloride (PVDC)

Because of its superior qualities as a barrier against water, oxygen and aromas, about 85 percent of PVDC is used as a thin layer between cellophane, paper and plastic to improve the packaging performance. Other, industrial uses include screens, artificial turf, waste-eater treatment materials and underground materials. It isn't PVC, but PVdC does contain chlorine and promotes concerns about end-of-life disposal through incineration where it generates a similar quantity of dioxins as PVC

Wood treatments containing Creosote, Arsenic or Pentachlorophenol

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) in wetapplied products