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Building Materials

In Europe, houses are usually built for lifelong housing. There is a variety of building materials, home products or structural factors that may lead to adverse health effects.
 
For radon, asbestos and lead the health hazards were identified many years ago. However, these pollutants are still present in many European dwellings. At present, the concern is more focused  towards volatile organic compounds (VOCs) particularly emitted from carpets, paints or furniture. Further compounds of interest are semi-volatile organic compound like polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), plasticizers (e.g. phthalates) or particulate matter, in and released from building and home products. In many cases, these compounds affect the quality of indoor air, and are inhaled by the residents.
 
At present there are considerations in various European countries, based on the Construction Products Directive (Council Directive 89/106/EEC), on how health aspects can be incorporated into the registration of construction products. Fundamental work herein has been done under the leadership of the European Collaborative Action "Indoor Air Quality and its Impact on Man" (ECA-IAQ), published in 1997.
 
In Germany, the "Committee for Health-related Evaluation of Building Products” (Ausschuss zur gesundheitlichen Bewertung von Bauprodukten - AgBB)  at the Federal Environmental Agency has developed an evaluation scheme on this basis for VOC emissions from building products suitable for indoor usage. This scheme is currently used for the registration of carpets.
 
In France, a similar scheme has been developed by the French Agency for Environmental and Occupational Health Safety (Agence française de sécurité sanitaire de l'environnement et du travail - Afsset) for the evaluation of VOCs and formaldehyde from construction products.
 
In Finland, construction products can be assigned to different classes on the basis of their VOC-emissions.
 
Denmark and Norway developed an indoor climate label for evaluation of construction products and furnishings on the basis of their emissions.
 
In Germany, the institution for statutory accident insurance and prevention of the Building Industry (Berufsgenossenschaft der Bauwirtschaft) provides an information system for hazardous substances (GISBAU), concerning the components of construction materials and preventive measures while handling with them (in German only).