The age of sustainability is here and consumers are now actively engaged, demanding products that support health and safety for people and the planet. Consumers care about a breadth of issues, from water conservation, to waste reduction, to product safety and social responsibility. In fact, according to a Shelton Group Pulse study, 70% of consumers are searching for greener products. Among those important issues is indoor air quality, raising concern for 43% of those consumers surveyed.
Some surprising statistics confirm why they should care about indoor air quality:
- Indoor air is estimated to be 2 – 5 times more polluted than outdoor air.
- An estimated 80,000 chemicals are used in international commerce today, with only 3 having been thoroughly tested for health impacts.
- Formaldehyde, a chemical used in fabricated wood products found in furniture and construction materials, is a known carcinogen, clearly posing a risk to human health.
Whereas product recalls have historically been focused on products’ physical performance, more and more lawsuits and recalls are centered on “unseen risks” such as odors and dangerous VOC emissions from products. Consumers are looking to furniture manufacturers to ensure that their products support healthier indoor environments.
And consumers are not the only ones pushing. From green building programs like LEED and IgCC, to regulatory programs like Prop 65 and the 2007 California Air Resources Board Airborne Toxic Control Measure, furniture manufacturers are under increasing pressure to ensure that their furniture products are safe. So where can manufacturers begin?
When it comes to taking steps to ensure the suitability of furniture products for indoor environments, manufacturers have several choices:
- Risk-based performance testing – Knowing which chemicals are in a product is not necessarily a predictor of the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that a product will emit or how they could impact humans based on exposure. Risk-based performance testing is the best way to determine how the VOCs emitted from a product are likely to impact the health of occupants based on typical exposure rates.
- Compliance testing with the most stringent regulations – By proactively complying with some of the most stringent emissions limits in the industry – like Prop 65 and CARB’s Airborne Toxic Control Act – furniture manufacturers can ensure acceptability of their products in most markets and simultaneously reduce risk of litigation.
- GREENGUARD Certification – GREENGUARD Certification gives assurance that products designed for use in indoor spaces meet strict chemical emissions limits. Achieving GREENGUARD Certification gives credence to manufacturers’ sustainability claims, backing them with empirical scientific data from an unbiased, third-party organization.
Indoor environments should be safe and comfortable for all occupants, from young to old, from healthy to immune-compromised. You can learn more about indoor air quality by visiting UL.com. By releasing low emitting furnishings to the marketplace, you are supporting healthier indoor environments, differentiating your products among increasingly savvy consumers, and doing your part to establish a more sustainable world.