Building Clean: Buy Local, Buy Healthy

Americans spend almost more than two-thirds of their lives inside their homes, and while news stories about what’s in our cleaning or personal care products are seemingly everywhere these days, how often do we think about what’s in the structure surrounding us? is a free tool that can help both building professionals and consumers discover what type of building products contain dangerous chemicals and how to find healthier alternatives.

What homes are built of impacts us in numerous ways. For example, studies have repeatedly linked residential chemical emissions with respiratory ailments such as asthma. Nearly 40 percent of medically diagnosed asthma is triggered by residential sources, such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which can be found in paints or flame retardants in insulation.

And asthma is just the beginning. Chemicals found in building products also can can cause cancer, lead to reproductive issues, and disrupt hormones critical to growth, among many other health impacts. The Harmful Chemicals section of the Building Clean website outlines hazards by product sector, and helps you evaluate products to make healthier choices.

Building things the right way with cleaner, healthier products can have a huge impact. One study found that when homes are built to eliminate pollutants—including using building products that have cut out harmful chemicals—asthmatic children had 63 percent more symptom-free days.

The key to making good decisions is good information. Knowing what is in the product is half the battle. Ingredient transparency has been an ongoing struggle. Voluntary disclosures and health certifications are one way that manufacturers can provide these details.

Building Clean explains the certifications and transparency documents in use in the current building product market and hosts a consolidated certified product search that allows you to find in one location products that have any of the major certifications and transparency listings. It also adds in helpful search terms. For example, you can search flooring or insulation by material type or water filtration devices by location in the home. The consolidated certification listings cover the following sectors: flooring, insulation, paint and wallcoverings, sealants, water filtration systems, and windows, doors, and skylights.

To better understand how toxic chemicals in products can impact the health of installers and residents, Building Clean provides a chemical library that has one-page, easy-to-read summaries about short-term effects of exposure—such as skin, eye, or respiratory irritation—as well as long-term effects.

The health of our homes is critical to the health of our communities. Building Clean gives us the information needed to motivate and direct us on how to improve both.