The Materials Book

41 11 Designing for Nontoxicity: “Could I Eat Your Furniture, IKEA?” 1 What if materials were not just nontoxic but also regenerative—could a building clean the air? Titanium-dioxide facade coatings are being studied for pollution capture and a range of studies are underway on carbon sequestration in common materials. Designing for nontoxicity is a first step toward regeneration that can be taken today. Materials that contain chemicals hazardous to human or environmental health are not recyclable, create enduring waste, may harm the workers producing them, and may emit hazardous chemicals—especially if they catch fire. Some of the most common building materials are made from hazardous materials. PVC (used for pipes), polyurethane (insulation), resin (flooring), formaldehyde (plywood), flame retardants, petrochemical-based products, heavy-metal additives (used in many products like sealants), and persistent bio- accumulative toxics (PBTs), like chlorine, are all harmful. Chemicals in hazardous materials travel down and upstream, and some, like PBTs, only break down after long periods of time. 1 Vivian Loftness, 2nd LafargeHolcim Roundtable, 2015.