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University of Michigan Discovers 55 Harmful Chemicals in Building Materials

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Building Materials

University of Michigan Discovers 55 Harmful Chemicals in Building Materials

Are your buyers getting ready to move into their newly constructed home? Here’s why they may want to wait


December 10, 2021
building chemicals
Image: Stock.adobe.com

Research conducted by the University of Michigan has identified 55 chemicals of concern in building materials used for new construction, including formaldehyde and butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), an antioxidant found in carpet flooring. Researchers have measured concentrations of the walls, floors, ceilings and furniture in some new homes across the United States that are 1,000 times higher than recommended.

Many chemical-product combinations used in building materials pose a significant health concern for inhabitants, especially those who move in shortly after construction when chemical exposure is still relatively high. 

“People are inside buildings more than 90% of their time, breathing and touching those chemicals in building materials so it’s very important to know whether there are harmful chemicals that could affect their health,” said the study’s first author, Lei Huang, a research specialist in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at the U-M School of Public Health.

To assess the potential human exposures and risks, the researchers screened more than 500 unique chemical-product combinations from chemical composition data reported in the Pharos Project database. Then they used a risk assessment approach to determine the amount of chemicals used in building products, the corresponding human exposure and the associated cancer and noncancer risks of the chemicals. Finally, they listed the chemicals from most to least concerning by their “hazard content ratios.”

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