7.2.1 Presence of and risks with chemical substances in construction products based on a
· Particurlarly Hazardous Substances occur in construction products in the EU and Sweden. A consultant study gives examples of 46 substances which are carcinogenic, toxic for reproduction, mutagenic, suspected of being endocrine-disrupting or allergenic.
· A large proportion of the 46 substances are volatile organic compounds (VOC), but semi- volatile organic compounds – SVOCs – also occur among the 46 substances. Phthalates suspected of being toxic for reproduction and endocrine-disrupting belong to the SVOC group. Children are exposed to phthalates to a larger extent than adults in an indoor environment.
· The derived EU-LCI values are an attempt to harmonise health-based evaluations of emissions from construction products.
· To reduce children’s exposure to hazardous substances indoors, emissions of hazardous substances in the indoor environment need to be regulated.
The survey on hazardous substances in construction products performed by a consultant identified 46 Particurlarly Hazardous Substances used in the EU construction sector. These substances are either raw materials for construction products or used in the processes for manufacturing construction products. The information was compiled based on the following sources: substances harmful to health according to CLP and the SIN List, as well as the Commission’s priority list of endocrine disruptors in combination with registration dossiers under the REACH regulation where the construction sector is specified. As allergens under 100 tonnes do not need to be registered under the REACH regulation before 2018, all the specific applications are not always indicated at the time of registration and imported
articles127 do not need to be registered at all, these 46 substances should not be considered to be a complete inventory, but merely an indication that substances harmful to health occur in the construction sector. The real quantity of hazardous substances is unknown and is likely to be significantly larger.
According to the Swedish Chemicals Agency’s Product Register, 27 of the 46 identified substances occur in construction products in Sweden. Based on analyses of the SundaHus and Byggvarubedömningen databases, we found 31 of these 46 substances. It is difficult to
quantify the volumes involved in a reliable manner as the information provided by the
suppliers varies hugely in terms of concentration range and, in some cases, information about raw materials and the actual contents of the products is mixed up.
Roughly two thirds of the 46 substances can be described as volatile organic compounds (VOC) and are used in the construction sector as raw materials for plastics, adhesives and other products.
127 The following definition is given of an article in Article 3(3) of the REACH regulation: “article: an object which during production is given a special shape, surface or design, which determines its function to a greater degree than does its chemical composition”.
Emissions data is reported in the scientific literature for a number of VOCs. Of the VOCs which have been identified during the consultant’s study128, i.e. substances with
characteristics which are carcinogenic, mutagenic or toxic for reproduction, emissions data has been reported for eight substances.
Although studies have highlighted that VOC emissions can differ between individual
submaterials/products and actual material combinations put together, which is what is present in a building, the alternative considered most realistic is to set requirements for emissions from individual construction products. Existing LCI values, both national and EU-LCI, are also derived in order to assess emissions at an individual product level and should not be regarded as limit values for the indoor environment.
Deriving EU-LCI values involves an attempt to harmonise health-based evaluations of emissions from construction products. Values of this kind, regardless of whether they are produced at a national or EU level, are an important component in restricting emissions of substances from construction products. The EU-LCI work is also beneficial to the operators on the market as common EU values make it easier for companies to meet emissions
requirements while selling their products in different countries where national legislation is in force. We would achieve the best result if emissions were regulated at EU level, but failing the existence of such regulations, national measures are appropriate. It is helpful if the
existing national restrictions are harmonised as far as possible, even though the circumstances may differ in different countries, while also being compatible with existing EU law.
EU-LCI values are health-based reference concentrations for exposure through inhalation, which are used to assess emissions from a construction product after 28 days. EU-LCI values are used in assessing product safety in order to avoid health risks associated with exposure of the public to hazardous substances over a long period. Until now, the task of producing EU- LCI values has focused on volatile organic compounds (VOC) and no systematic review and assessment of very volatile organic compounds (VVOC), semi-volatile organic compounds (SVOC) or specific carcinogenic VOC substances have yet been carried out. This means that if substances of this kind, which do not have an LCI value yet, are going to be handled, they must be handled in a different way (at least to start with) other than using individually set values.
One problem with SVOCs is that there are, to a large extent, no suitable methods for
analysing them. This is why the analysis data is often inconsistent and show a large amount of variation. Emissions are however reported for SVOCs in the literature, for instance for
different types of flame retardants and plasticisers. VOCs occur in indoor environments in the gas phase, which means that they are present in the air we breathe. SVOCs, on the other hand, may be present in air, but are also found, to large extent, in dust. Studies have shown that substances of this kind can be transferred to dust by means of evaporation, deposits, abrasion of fibres or particles or through transfer on direct contact.
Children are exposed to substances in air and dust to a larger extent than adults. Children have a higher respiratory rate than adults in relation to their body weight and they have a higher intake of dust. Children are often close to the floor and often suck or bite both their own hands and different types of objects.
Phthalates are a group of SVOCs which were analysed more thoroughly as part of a
Government commission which the Swedish Chemicals Agency worked on during 2014 on
128 Swedish Chemicals Agency 2015, PM 9/15, Kartläggning av farliga ämnen i byggprodukter i Sverige (Survey of hazardous substances in construction products in Sweden), IVL
drafting proposals for phasing out in Sweden phthalates which are toxic for reproduction and endocrine-disrupting. The construction sector is the sector which uses the most soft
plasticised PVC and, therefore, phthalates in items such as flooring, wall coverings and profiles for doors and windows.
The phthalates are not chemically bonded to the material. Therefore, they can be emitted from materials and be absorbed by the body. Foetuses and small children are considered to be a sensitive subgroup as young laboratory animals have shown to be more sensitive to phthalates than adult animals. Phthalates in the indoor environment are an important source of exposure for small children where a considerable contribution is made, above all, by the occurrence of phthalates in dust129. Concentrations of phthalates in dust are generally higher in the pre- school environment, up to five times higher than in the home or other public environments. This can be attributed to the desire to have easy-to-clean surfaces in pre-school institutions, which means that PVC materials are often used. Analyses of phthalates in dust in a pre-school environment indicated in general the highest occurrence of DINP followed by DEHP and DIDP.
Emissions of hazardous substances from construction products are an important area with regard to environmental health, and there is a need for greater ambition in tackling this area. So far, there is only one regulation concerning emissions of hazardous substances from construction products in Sweden, with regard to formaldehyde emissions from particle board. However, hazardous substances other than formaldehyde can be emitted from construction products, which means that this single regulation is inadequate in terms of protecting human health. Children also have a higher level of exposure than adults to substances in indoor air and dust. To reduce exposure to hazardous chemicals indoors, it is important to regulate emissions of hazardous substances in the indoor environment.
7.2.2 Existing measures within the construction sector for dealing with