Its a jungle out there!
ESD is full of acronyms, a jungle of TLAs (three letter
acronyms)! It's also an area where terminology ranges from the
mundane to the medical with every combination in between...hence
the need for a glossary.
Have you come across a strange sounding chemical? An unfamiliar
phrase or expression? Whilst far from comprehensive, the
ecospecifier glossary aims to provide some
guidance to the plethora of words and phrases used in sustainable
Have you got a new one?
If you have come across a piece or jargon or a term you are not
familiar with, contact us at email@example.com. If we don't know the
answer we may be able to find out, and can then add the new
word to the glossary - so hopefully the next person will find the
answer they seek.
Click here for a glossary of building
Click here for a glossary of sustainability
Solvent, Cellulose glues and a wide range of products e.g. paint
thinners. Weak nervous toxin.
Synthetic rubber, carcinogenic.
Alumina (aluminium oxide, or Al2O3) is a white powder produced
from bauxite ores (iron alumino silicate), using a chemical
treatment known as the Bayer Process. In this process, bauxite is
dissolved in a solution of caustic soda at high temperatures which
dissolves the alumina, leaving iron oxide and silicates as waste
products (red mud). The solution of alumina and caustic soda is
cooled, concentrated and stirred until crystals form. The alumina
trihydrate crystals are recovered from the caustic solution, washed
and processed in a kiln at temperatures greater than 1,100°C to
produce dry white anhydrous aluminium oxide used for the production
of aluminium. Aluminium has an embodied energy of 170 GJ/tonne and
embodied water of 88,000 L/tonne.
(Phenylamine) or Aminobenzene
An organic chemical compound which is a primary aromatic
amine consisting of a benzene and an amino group. It is toxic
by inhalation of the vapour, absorption through the skin or
swallowing. It causes headache, drowsiness, cyanosis, mental
confusion and in severe cases can cause convulsions. Prolonged
exposure to the vapour or slight skin exposure over a period of
time affects the nervous system and the blood, causing tiredness,
loss of appetite, headache and dizziness. Some authorities class
aniline as a carcinogen although the IARC lists it
in Group 3 (not classifiable as to its
carcinogenicity to humans) due to the limited and
contradictary data available (ref. Muir, GD (ed.) 1971).
A metalloid with a toxicity dependent upon its
chemical form and oxidation state, with +III compounds exerting
greater toxicity than +V compounds. Toxic properties of Antimony
are similar to those of arsenic. Exposure to high levels of
antimony through inhaling or digetion can result in heart and lung
problems, stomach pain, skin irritation, diarrhoea, vomiting, and
stomach ulcers among other potential health problems.
Antimony & compounds was ranked as 84 out of 400 on the NPI
reporting list (see National Pollutants
Inventory below). The total hazard score taking into account
both human health and environmental criteria is 2.3. On a health
hazard rating of 0 - 3 antimony & compounds registers 1.0. A
score of 3 represents a very high hazard to health, 2 represents a
medium hazard and 1 is harmful to health. On an environmental
rating of 0 - 3 antimony & compounds registers 1.3. A score of
3 represents a very high hazard to the environment and 0 a
In the context of the imminent emergency in climate change due to
greenhouse emissions, there is a need to reconsider the widely held
notion that 'durability delivers sustainability'. While some
durability is important in critical areas such as load bearing
elements where the success of the whole structure depends on
durability, in areas such as external shading devices and other
elements that are in effect non-essential , accessible and
maintainable, there is a need to consider the 'durability payback'
of materials selection. The important question here is whether it
is appropriate to invest in durability that generates high
greenhouse emissions now - when we have a critical need to minimise
emissions - when lower durability materials that have a low/no
greenhouse emitting maintenance regimes will suffice. In this
sense, we should not necessarily or automatically aim to maximise
durability, but rather to optimise 'durability payback', taking
into account the greenhouse appropriateness of durability (with the
financial costs) and whether alternative materials can be used to
minimise climate change in the short term, because now is the
critical period for change.
Pesticides & Veterinary Medicines Authority)
The APVMA is a government body that assesses and
registers agricultural and veterinary chemical products. All new
agricultural and veterinary chemical products must be
registered before they can be supplied, distributed or sold
anywhere in Australia. In addition, the active
constituents- substance/s in the chemical product primary
responsible for its biological or other effects- must also be
approved by the APVMA either before, or at the same time as the
product is registered.
(refer also Heavy Metals)
Wood preservative, poison. Lethal dose can be as low as 70mg.
Chromium is one of a group of chemicals that cannot be
added during manufacture if furniture is to be awarded a Good
Environmental Choice Australia Ecolabel. IARC caterories it as a
Group 1 Carcinogen, i.e. carcinogenic to humans.
Bamboo is a high-yield renewable resource, with a harvest time of
3-5 years, as opposed to 10-20 years for most softwoods. It is
exceptionally strong, with a tensile strength rivalling steel. It's
light, durable and tough formation makes it useful for many
purposes, such as a structural building product for houses, fences
and bridges and furniture. For flooring, bamboo is steamed,
flattened, treated against insects then glued under high pressure,
finished and cut. It can be nail or glue fixed, but can be brittle
so careful nailing is needed and if glued low VOC glues need to be
used. It can become infested with wood-boring insects if untreated
or used in wet areas. Bamboo is predominantley source from China
and other parts of Asia.
(refer also Toluene and Xylene)
Aromatic readily absorbed through the skin, eliminated very
slowly. Low-level chronic exposure (e.g. by painters) can lead to
liver damage and possibly cancer (Thurtell L. ed., 2003). Mineral
turps can contain up to 20% benzene in Australia.
Biochemical Oxygen Demand
Refers to the amount of oxygen required by micro-organisms to
oxidise the organic material (BOC = bio-degradable organic
compounds) in wastewater. Measurement of BOD generally provides a
more accurate indication of pollution quantities of wastewater in
regards to bio-degradable matter than COD.
Plastic hardner, suspected endocrine disruptor, environmentally
persistent, may affect fertility.
Indicators of the concentration of organic compounds in
wastewater. See also Suspended Solids.
Fungicide and insecticide. Fire retardent in fabrics and cellulose
fibre insulation. Moderately toxic if swallowed. Considered
low-level environmental toxin; preferred alternative to other
toxins, e.g. CCA treatment.
Boric acid is manufactured by diluting borax with mineral acids.
It exists naturally in plants, in most of the fruits and in
seawater. Boric acid is used extensively as medicine, insecticide,
preservative, lubricant and industrial applications. However, long
term exposure to boric acid may lead to kidney damage. In August
2008 the European Commission classified boric acid as reprotoxic
category 2, and it is associated to Risk Phrases R60 (may impair
fertility) and R61 (may cause harm to the unborn child). This
classification is based on animal tests where boric acid was given
in high doses and is unlikely to relate to the normal contact and
doses associated with its use as a vermin repellent and fire
retardant in cellulose insulation.
Fire retardants, e.g. in cellulose insulation; toxic in event of
fire. May be bio- accumulative. May be endocrine disruptors.
In styrene butadiene rubber (SBR), probably carcinogenic (Berge,
Used in paints with red, yellow pigments. Stabiliser in PVC.
Fungicide. Highly toxic, greatest risk from inhalation of fumes or
dust. Persistent in the body. Cadmium is one of a group
of chemicals that cannot be added during manufacture if
furniture is to be awarded a Good Environmental Choice Australia
Carbon Black, often used as a pigment, is classified as a Group 2B
carcinogen which is possibly carcinogenic to humans by the IARC. It
does not appear to have significant harmful effects after a single
short-term exposure except general effects that would be expected
with any fine dust inhalation, such as coughing and temporary
irritation. However, given long-term inhalation, Carbon Black dust
can accumulate in lungs, which, at high concentrations, can
overwhelm the clearance capacity of the lungs. Persons handling
finished products (e.g. walls) that have been painted black or raw
forms of Carbon Black should practice good Occupational, Health and
Safety procedures including adequate use of Personal Protective
Equipment (PPE) to mitigate potential issues.
Chemical Oxygen Demand
Refers to the amount of oxygen required for chemical oxidation of
organic material (biodegradable and non-biodegradable) in
Synthetic rubber & glue, carcinogenic, damages liver.
A heavy metal that is used in many building products including
tapware, stainless steel, leather tanning and timber CCA
preservatives. IARC lists it in Group 3 (not
classifiable as to its carcinogenicity to humans). Chromium VI
(hexavalent) is an Australian National Pollutants Index (NPI)
listed chemical. In its insoluble trivalent hydroxide form (as
opposed to the NPI listed hexavalent form) it is a common
by-product of leather tanning and has been linked to vitro
teratogenic and bioaccumulative effects, primarily via inhalation
and skin exposure. Chromium is one of a group
of chemicals that cannot be added during manufacture if
furniture is to be awarded a Good Environmental Choice Australia
Applies to product streams containing distinct components (e.g.
furniture, partitions, storage, etc) and implies products are
designed so that components are easily disassembled. The processes
which are required in product removal from site and component
separation must not involve specialist tools so that a future
recycler, supplier or another third party, can easily direct the
different materials into the appropriate reuse or recycling
streams. Flooring product standards may allow for the use of
specialist tools to facilitate product component disassembly.
Refers to the amount of a chemical absorbed into the body from an
Ecopoints are a single score environmental assessment. They were
developed by the UK based organisation BRE as a standardised means
of comparing the environmental impacts of individual products. This
enables products of varied nature to be comparatively assessed
using a simple single score rating. Ecopoints are
calculated by 'normalising' the data of a products whole
of life environmental impacts, using a weighting system
developed on a range of sustainability issues. Ecopoint
scores also class products with an A, B or C rating - the 'A'
rating being the most environmentally preferable. See
ecospecifier's Internet Resources
for more information regarding the BRE organisation.
Compounds that mimic, block, or interfere with hormone production,
and/or metabolism and/or excretion causing malfunction of the
endocrine system and creates potential malfunction/s of the
reproductive and/or nervous, and/or immune systems.
A claim which indicates the environmental aspects of a product or
NOTE An environmental label or declaration may take the form of a
statement, symbol or graphic on a product or package label, in
product literature, in technical bulletins, in advertising or in
publicity, amongst other things.
Varnishes, adhesives, paints and caulking, highly allergenic and
sensitising. A suspected carcinogen. Inert once fully cured.
Synthetic solvents used in paints, lacquers, resins.
ecospecifier Cautionary Assessment Process- as defined in
Appendix 1. For more information, please click
The actual contact that a person has with a chemical. It can be
one-time, short-term, or long-term.
Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) is a mandatory
type of product stewardship that includes, at a minimum, the
requirement that the producer's responsibility for their product
extends to post-consumer management of that product and its
packaging. There are two related features of EPR policy: (1)
shifting financial and management responsibility, with government
oversight, upstream to the producer and away from the public
sector; and (2) providing incentives to producers to incorporate
environmental considerations into the design of their products and
packaging. (Product Policy Institute, April 2012).
Forest Stewardship Council
An internationally recognised non-profit organisation supporting
sustainable, economically viable and socially beneficial management
of forestry. Founded in 1993 it is composed of a number of
stakeholders and professionals in the field of forestry.
Certification by FSC means the timber has Chain of Custody -
verification the extraction source of the timber was an FSC
certified forest that meets the Principles and Criteria of Forest Stewardship.
(for more information on ecolabels please click here), FSC website or
for Australian context see WWF Australia's FSC.
In urea; phenol and melamine formaldehyde glues use in chipboard
and plys; disinfectants and preservatives; finish for carpets,
textiles and paper; IARC categorised as a Group 1 carcinogen, i.e.
a human carcinogen. Respiratory and mucous membrane irritant at low
levels. The most common domestic air pollutant (Thurtell L. ed.,
Total energy that passes through a glazing system. Includes the
fraction of solar radiation admitted through a window, both
directly transmitted, and absorbed and then subsequently released.
A lower G-Value transmits less solar heat, and provides better
In fact, the issue of glare is more than a physiological health
and safety issue. Some studies suggest that unevenly distributed
daylight can cause psychological harm and frequently leads
occupants to close blinds and switch on lights, resulting in the
unnecessary use of electricity. Unanticipated glare can also have
repercussions in emergency situations.
Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE)
describes two types of glare:
- Disability glare is defined as the situation where "vision is
impaired by excessive dazzle from a bright light source or
reflection such as light reflecting from a glossy surface or from
- Discomfort glare is defined as "visual discomfort... caused by
very bright light such as direct sunlight or bright lamps". When
shiny surfaces are illuminated the resulting reflections, called
veiling reflections, produce bright patches of high intensity
Developed by the Australian Environmental Labelling Association
(AELA) the GECA is a Type 1 Ecolabel (for more information on
ecolabels please click here). The award compares similar
products within specified categories and awards the products that
are at the top 20% of their category on cradle to grave assessment
of their efficiency and overall environmental impact. AELA created
the Australian Environmental Labelling Standards as scientifically
based criteria by which to assess products. For more information,
see the GECA website.
Green Building Rating
A points based sustainability performance rating system for
buildings operated by either Government Agencies or Non-government
organisation such as a Green Building Council, whether it be
mandatory or voluntary.
The ecospecifier product assessment program that
provides Technical Opinion assessments of products' compatibility
to various Green Building Rating schemes including Green Star™,
NABERS, BASIX, LEED®, Estidama Pearls, BREEAM, Green Mark as
relevant to the country of operation of the
ecospecifier online database or publication
relevant to the Product Assessment or Label;
An ecospecifier LCA EcoPOINT is the
weighted results of the LCA analysis over the potential life of an
eco-preferred building material, compared to a 'Business as Usual'
or typical product used within the market. Discernment of the
comparative performance of products within the LCARate process can
be made by reference to the actual GreenTag® Ecopoint score
determined by the Assessment process. A product is assessed against
Sustainability Assessment Categories (SACs) and allocated a
possible score out of 0-1. Where a score of 0 = no impact, and a
score of 1 = Impact of Worst Case Business as Usual product in the
same functional purpose category.
Arsenic, barium, cadmium, chromium, cobalt, lead, manganese,
mercury, selenium, zinc. Pigments in paints, inclusions in many,
many products. Toxic to highly-toxic. Some pigments, e.g. strontium
yellow, emerald green, manganese blue, are known carcinogens
(Thurtell L. ed., 2003).
Ions are formed when an electron is detached from a molecule (or
atom). The molecule losing an electron becomes a positive ion and
the molecule gaining an electron becomes a negative ion. In natural
conditions both negative and positive ions are generated, however
in the built environment a net imbalance of positive ions can be
produced (e.g. car exhaust emissions, electrical devices etc).
Central heating and air-conditioning can also remove negative ions
from the air. Studies have shown that negative ions can help
increase healing rates and increase productivity rates in the
Glues, strongly allergenic and irritant for mucous membranes.
LC50 (lethal concentration) is the concentration of a
material in the atmosphere that will kill 50% of an animal
population in a specific time period.
LD50 (lethal dose) is the single dose of a toxic substance taken
in by any route other than inhalation that will cause the death of
50% of an animal population.
Leather and Leather
Leather is a renewable resource and meat industry byproduct so is
potentially an environmentally preferred resource. However
depending on how it is processed and tanned it also has the
potential to be a high environmental impact material. Potential
environmental impacts of production include emissions of the heavy
metal chromium, toxic dyestuffs and other
polluting byproducts. Issues to be considered in regards to leather
and its processing include:
- Is the leather processed fresh or is a preservative used?
- What is done with the waste animal scrapings (landfill,
incineration, biodigestion, etc.)?
- What are the BOD and COD content, chromium, salt or toxics content of the
- What percentage of wastes are sent to landfill and resources
(energy water, gas etc), consumables, waste streams recycled?
Conventional chrome tanned leather and leather products
generally contain about 2-3% of dry weight chromium (FAO, 2002) -
the average weight for an individual hide is approximately 5kg.
Environmentally the ideal aim should be to reduce chromium content
to zero due to its high potential environmental impacts, e.g. under
the GECA Furniture and Fittings standard, products which
contain chromium are prohibited from listing as eco-labeled
(Source: Food and Agricultural Organization of the United
Nations, The environmental impact of the animal product
processing industries, April, 2002)
There are a number of different types of upholstery leathers:
i) Full/Pure Aniline - leather that has been drum dyed without
pigment applied to surface. A light protective coating is sometimes
added. It will exhibit all natural features such as scars, growth
marks, fat wrinkles etc. Only the best raw hides are selected for
this leather type. Requires regular care.There are two forms of
aniline leather: full grain and nubuck, which is formed through
further buffing which produces a nap
ii) Semi-Aniline - drum dyed leather incorporating a small
amount of pigment and protective finish however this finish does
not conceal all the natural characteristics of the hide. Requires
iii) Corrected Grain - pigmented and pigmented top
coated are normally finished with a water-based pigment and a clear
urethane top coat. They are the most common upholstery leathers.
Requires only periodic care.
Consecutive and interlinked stages of a product system, from raw
material acquisition or generation of natural resources to the
Life cycle based
Assessments that consider the impacts of a product from raw raw
material acquisition or generation of natural resources to the
final disposal using a combination of quantified LCI (approximate)
and qualified data and reporting.
Life cycle assessment
The assessment of the environmental impact of a given product
throughout its lifespan.
Quantifying the energy and raw material inputs and environmental
releases associated with each stage of production;
Life Cycle Impact Analysis
Assessing the impacts on human health and the environment
associated with energy and raw material inputs and environmental
releases quantified by the inventory;
Solvent used in many 'natural' paints, slightly allergenic, slight
irritant of mucous membranes.
MBDC Cradle to
Cradle™ Certification Program
The McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry (MBDC) Cradle to Cradle™
Certification Program provides a thorough asessment of a
products environmental and health
characteristics, encompassing whole-of-life sustainability.
The certification scheme has a three-tiered rating approach:
Silver, Gold and Platinum. Products are asessed under the following
five broad categories: Materials, Nutrient (Re)utilization, Energy,
Water, and Social Responsibility.
Remelted blast furnace slag spun into fibre. Used in wall and
ceiling insulation, air conditioning ducts, pipe lagging and
acoustic insulation. Recyclable but not currently recycled in
Australia. Mid range embodied energy.
The range of chemicals in use in the built environment is
staggering and highly complex. Identifying whether a chemical is a
problem or not can be very difficult. This comprehensive and
powerful resource maintained by the Federal Government provides
valuable assistance. As well as a list of common and less common
problematic chemicals for each chemical the following
characteristics are given:
- Physical and chemical properties
- Chemical properties
- Common uses
- Sources of emissions
- Health effects including exposure routes
- Health guidelines
- Environmental effects
- Environmental guidelines
- Overall ranking within range of problematic chemicals and
to link through to the NPI Homepage
In 1997 a report was published by the Technical Advisory
Panel (TAP) to the National Pollutant Inventory, to recommend
substances for inclusion on the NPI. A copy of this report,
including a list of the chemicals placed in the top 400 polluting
substances in Australia, can be found here.
No Observed Adverse Effects Concentration. The highest level of a
chemical stressor in a toxicity test that did not cause
harmful effect in a plant or animal. While NOAELs and NOAECs are
similar, they are not interchangeable., A NOAEC refers to direct
exposure to a chemical (e.g., through gills or the skin).
No Observed Adverse Effect Levels for any ill-effects that might
occur. Also called NOEL is the highest dose in an investigation
that does not cause ill-effects. A NOAEL refers to a dose of
chemical that is ingested.
Is a man-made (i.e. it does not otherwise occur in
nature) fungicide which is an organochloride. It is toxic to
humans. It has been used as a pesticide and
preservative on timber and leather.
Ingredient in glues, disinfectants, highly toxic. Depressant to
central nervous system. Can cause liver damage.
Plasticisers in a range of plastics, up to 50% content,
pseudo-oestrogens, endocrine disruption, moderately persistent
environmental poisons. Higher risk to children. Have been shown to
have pseudo-eostrogenic effects in humans and other mammals. They
are volatile compounds emitted by common materials sources
such as vinyl fabric, floors, toys, etc. as they evaporate
slowly at room temperatures. Pthalates have been linked to female
breast-tissue growth in men, dropping male sperm counts and may
contribute to the excess oestrogen that is suspected as having
causal links to increasing breast cancer rates.
Polyamides are naturally and synthetically occuring polymers.
Naturally occuring polyamides include proteins such as wool.
Synthetic polyamides can be used in the manufacturing of products
including textiles, geo-textiles and carpets.
Material generated by households or by commercial, industrial and
institutional facilities in their role as end-users of the product
which can no longer be used for its intended purpose. This includes
returns of material from the distribution chain.
Material diverted from the waste stream during a manufacturing
process. Excluded is reutilisation of materials such as rework,
regrind, or scrap generated in a process and capable of being
reclaimed within the same process that generated it.
Any material/s, product/s or technology performing the same
functional purpose for assessment under this Standard.
Product Stewardship is the act of minimizing health, safety,
environmental and social impacts, and maximizing economic benefits
of a product and its packaging throughout all lifecycle stages. The
producer of the product has the greatest ability to minimize
adverse impacts, but other stakeholders, such as suppliers,
retailers, and consumers, also play a role. Stewardship can be
either voluntary or required by law.(Product Policy Institute, April 2012).
Polyvinyl chloride. In its plasticised form PVC contains a
range of softeners including a range of chemicals known as Pthalates (see above). There
are upstream OH&S and environmental issues and downstream
disposal issues as very few recycling opportunities exist. Issues
mostly surround problematic and persistent chlorinated organic
compounds. See also UPVC, Vinyl
A study released by the European Union in 2006 assessed the
safety of the most commonly used plasticisers in PVC. This study
found that DIDP and DINP are non-hazardous and considered safe for
use. Download the Full Report, published by the European
Commission's European Chemicals Bureau (ECB).
For more information on PVC refer to our links under Internet Resources.
Pyrethroids (synthetic version of
naturally occurring pyrethrum)
Insecticide, e.g. anti-termicide, different generation products
have different toxicities. Third generation products, e.g.
permethrin 25/75 not considered highly toxic to humans or mammals,
toxic to fish. Fourth generation products, e.g. bifenthrin
considered more toxic. More stable, can be used in lower doses than
previous forms (Thurtell L. ed., 2003).
Risk is summarised as 'Hazard x exposure' a measure of the
likelihood or probability of such damage occurring under particular
circumstances of exposure
Routes of exposure
Ingestion, inhalation, dermal or conjunctival.
Caulking compounds, plastics, rubbers., very stable and inert, low
toxicity. Potential toxicity comes from additives.
Styrene Butadiene (SBR) Rubbers
Mucous membrane irritant, damages reproductive organs.
The party that is responsible for ensuring that products meet and,
if applicable, continue to meet, the requirements on which the
certification is based.
The concentration of suspended solids represents the amount of
insoluble organic and inorganic particles in the wastewater, which
increase water turbidity and demand for oxygen through the slow
hydrolysis rate of the organic fraction of the material.
To be listed on ecospecifier, a termite
management system must meet ecospecifier's
chemical toxicity requirements, ie. no significant terrestrial,
aquatic or human health impacts, and also meet the following
Chemical-based system- Must be registered by the APVMA (see
above Glossary listing).
Physical (non-chemical) based system- Must be in accordance with
AS 3660.1: Termite Management- new building work.
Hybrid (chemical and physical barrier)- must meet both the APVMA
registration and AS 3660.1 standard.
A major constituent in paint, sunscreen, cements, windows, tiles,
or other products due to its sterilising, deodorising and
anti-fouling properties and is also used as a base for self
cleaning nanotechnology (e.g. glass) as well as hydrolysis catalyst. It can also oxidise oxygen or organic
materials directly. Causes major ecological impacts as it is
sourced primarily from sand mining, an extremely ecologically
damaging process affecting sensitve coastal dune systems. The GECA
Architectural Coating Standards states that the TiO2 levels of
paints should not exceed 40g/m² of dry finished film thickness of
overall recommended number of coats.
In 2006, the IARC reclassified titanium dioxide as possibly
carcinogenic to humans (Group 2B). This issue of concern relates to
the inhalation of powdered and ultra-fine titanium dioxide dust.
Accordingly the sanding, grinding and other occupational production
activities of products containing titanium dioxide may present
issues if appropriate precautions are not taken. Precautions for
workers such as reducing exposure to compound in dust form and
using appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) mitigates
Toluene, also known as toluol, is a clear, sweet smelling
liquid, mostly refined from crude oil, although there are
other methods used for production as well. It is commonly used as
solvent, paint thinner and for production of other chemicals as a
starting material. Toluene has been classed Group 3 unclassifiable
as carcinogenic according to the International Agency for Research
on Cancer (IARC). It is highly flammable, harmful by inhalation,
irritating to skin, may cause lung damage if swallowed and its
vapours may cause drowsiness and dizziness. Toluene is associated
with possible risk of harm to the unborn child and danger of
serious damage to health by prolonged exposure. Use of toluene in
indoors or around food should be avoided.
Totally Degradable Plastic
Biodegradable additives that are used in small quantities in
commodity resins during the manufacture of finished plastic
products. The additives cause the plastic to degrade at a
controlled rate when exposed to ultraviolet light, elevated
temperatures and moisture and/or moisture or mechanical stress. The
additives have been documented to aid in biodegradability of
plastic products such as grocery bags and landfill covers under the
specific stated conditions relating to each additive.
The ability of a chemical to produce adverse effects in living
organisms ie damage an organ system, to disrupt a biochemical
process, or to disturb an enzyme system
The embodied energy of transport. Depending on the form of
transport used different modes of transport consume different
amounts of fuel. There is a widespread misconception that if a
product is manufactured overseas, it has high embodied transport
energy. Whereas in fact, because sea transport is between 3300
(general cargo ship) to 4100 (large container ship) times more fuel
efficient than the most efficient form of bulk road transport
- the diesel semi-trailer (0.53MJ/tonne.km). If the product
travels only short distances by road overseas, the imported product
will contain less embodied transport energy than say one that is
manufactured interstate, regionally or even in outer urban areas.
If it is transported on smaller less efficient trucks it may be the
case if the a product has to travel even comparatively small
distances of say 30-50km.
Chlorinated solvent, refer 'Benzene' above.
The U-Value represents the rate of air-to-air heat transfer, in
watts, through a 1m2 area of the building element, when there is a
temperature difference of 1 degrees celsius between the air on
either side of the particular building element.
Unplasticised PVC that does not contain pthalates. Lifecycle
phase issues not significant from eco-impacts viewpoint.
Manufacture and disposal concerns similar to PVC. For more
information on PVC refer to our links under Internet Resources.
Solvent, slightly irritant and allergenic.
Monomer of PVC, known & persistent carcinogen. Traces left in
PVC can slowly diffuse out, although unlikely they would form
harmful air concentrations (Thurtell L. ed., 2003).
Vinyl flooring is plasticised PVC. Plasticised PVC is a
controversial material from an eco and health preferable stance.
However its durability, long performance life, resilience to
moisture and ease of maintenance make it a commonly used product
with some preferable benefits. Ecospecifier uses the Life Cycle
Analysis based environmental assessment, Ecopoint, as the basis for
determining the more eco and health preferable vinyl flooring
products in comparison to generic products and less eco
For a vinyl flooring to be considered for listing on
ecospecifier it must obtain a BRE Ecopoint score and the score must
be less than 1.06 (Note - score is based on 1 square metre of vinyl
flooring on hardboard sheeting over a 60 year life).
This benchmark score has been established by accepting Ecopoint
scores that fall in the top 25% of the rating system. See Ecopoint
VOCs - Volatile Organic
Organic compounds with a boiling point between 50°C and
260°C or a vapour pressure more than 0.1mm Hg 25 C. The
term encompasses a very large and diverse group of
carbon-containing compounds, including aliphatic, aromatic and
halogenated hydrocarbons; aldehydes; ethers; esters; acids;
alcohols and ketones. Examples of VOCs include benzene, toluene,
chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), halons, formaldehyde, carbon
tetrachloride and some pesticides. Benzene is a Group 1 carcinogen
(IARC), as is formaldehyde. VOCs are found in many
products including paints, adhesives, building board and composite
timber, fabric dressing, lacquers, some foams, some carpets
and vinyl/plasticised PVC.
Potential health effects from contact with VOC's at even low
concentrations include irritation to the throat, eyes and nose,
nausea, headaches, loss of coordination, damage to the kidney,
central nervous system and lungs. Symptoms vary in severity
depending on the composition, concentration and length of exposure
to the VOC's present. Contact with some VOC's has been known to
cause, and some suspected of causing cancer in humans.
VOC's are damaging to the environment predominately due to the
production of photochemical smog from various VOC's. Photochemical
smog can also have detrimental health effects to humans. VOC's have
been found to cause cancer in other animals and also to have
serious effects on plants.
'Low VOC'- complies with current industry/standard or Green
building Rating Scheme minimum criteria or where no criteria are
available is so determined by review of VOC test data or material
characteristics based on composition review.
'Very Low VOC' - less than approximately 1/10 the current
industry/standards or Green building Rating Scheme minimum criteria
or where no criteria are available is so determined by review of
VOC test data.
'Ultra Low VOC'- less than approximately 1/100 the current
industry/standards or Green building Rating Scheme minimum criteria
or where no criteria are available is so determined by review of
VOC test data.
'Zero VOC'- No measurable VOC emissions with current technology
relating to current industry/standards or Green building Rating
Scheme minimum criteria or where no criteria are available is so
determined by review of VOC test data
Several Australian organisations have standards for paints
including the Australian Ecolabelling Association (GECA) and the
Australian Paint Approval Scheme (APAS D181).
APAS Standards for Paint VOCs are as follows:
- Low odour/low environmental
Note: these levels are for untinted paints and most tint systems
contain high VOC content - so when tinting mid-dark colours check
with manufacturers for actual VOC levels.
GECA Standards for Paint VOCs are as follows:
- Interior flat
- Interior flat
washable 16 16
Note: these levels are inclusive of maximum tint levels for
tinted paints and most tint systems contain high VOC content - so
when tinting mid-dark colours check with manufacturers for actual
[environmental effects of wool production]
Wool is a keratin based fibre. Environmental effects of wool
production in Australia and New Zealand include soil compaction by
cloven hooves and habitat loss due to demand for fertiliser
dependant, specialised pasture plant species and land clearing.
Sheep also produce methane which is a potent greenhouse gas.
Xylene is a colourless, sweet smelling liquid, mostly refined from
crude oil, although there are other methods used for
production as well. It is commonly used as solvent, paint thinner
and for production of other chemicals as a starting material.
Xylene has been classed Group 3 unclassifiable as carcinogenic
according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer
(IARC). It is flammable, harmful by inhalation and in contact with
skin and also irritating to skin. Use of xylene in indoors or
around food should be avoided.
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