Indoor Air Quality’s Role in Sustainability
Sustainability is a term often associated with environmentally friendly practices such as energy conservation, recycling and the development of alternative energy sources. While those elements are important contributors to the mission of sustainability, environmental concerns do not solely constitute its definition. Rather, the mission of sustainability is focused on balancing environmental, economic and social concerns in order to “meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development).
Human Health and Sustainability
Human health concerns are not only at the core of the mission of sustainability, but are also a common thread connecting its three pillars, both affecting and being affected by environmental, economic and social issues. Any approach towards more sustainable lifestyles, buildings or products must address potential human exposure to pollutants and chemicals and associated health effects.
Source Control and the Precautionary Approach
Ample evidence exists that people can be harmed by many of the chemicals to which they are exposed. Eliminating the sources of these pollutants so as to significantly reduce exposure should be a primary sustainability objective. Given the vast number of different volatile organic compounds (VOCs) measured in indoor environments and the constant discovery of new potentially harmful compounds, it seems prudent to focus on reducing overall chemical exposure in addition to limiting exposure to individual chemicals with known health hazards.
This precautionary approach attempts to prevent harm in the first place rather than waiting until a pollutant is found to be hazardous and the resulting public health effects are assessed. GREENGUARD Certification takes into account stringent limits for individual hazardous VOCs, such as formaldehyde, as well as including requirements for total VOC emissions as a precautionary measure.
Source control and a precautionary approach are inherent to sustainability. GREENGUARD Certification provides consumers and specifying professionals with the resource to find products with low VOC emissions.