A new LEED pilot credit announced by the US Green Building Council (USGBC) encourages builders, architects and designers to shift from affordable, versatile and safe halogenated materials, including chlorine-based vinyl products, to unproven and more costly alternatives.
"This approach could lead to higher risk of infection in hospitals and increased health care costs while providing no environmental benefit," said Greenpeace co-founder and Greenspirit Strategies Ltd. Chairman Dr. Patrick Moore. "Nearly two million people contract infections each year in hospitals, and almost 100,000 people die as a result," Moore said. "According to the Department of Health and Human Services, this adds between $28 billion and $33 billion in health care costs," said Moore.
Vinyl products such as flooring and wallcoverings are often chosen in hospital settings because they can be installed seamlessly and are easy to clean, which help reduce the risk of pathogens. Vinyl is the material of choice for blood bags and intravenous tubing. The safety of vinyl in the health care sector has been confirmed by more than 40 years of use - over 5 billion patient days of exposure without any indication of adverse effects.
The USGBC, through its Technical Science and Advisory Committee, looked comprehensively at vinyl's pros and cons and concluded the overall impacts were in line with those of other materials - and that vinyl was superior to competing materials in some applications.
"This new anti-vinyl credit contradicts the USGBC's own findings," said Moore.
The credit also runs counter to another pilot credit in LEED that encourages life cycle assessments. "Vinyl scores very well on life cycle assessments and requires less energy to manufacture on a per unit basis than other plastics, but under this new pilot credit you would not be rewarded for using it," said Moore.
"Chlorine and chlorine-based products are vital to medicine and the cleanliness of hospitals," said Moore. "Discouraging their use, as this pilot credit does, is detrimental to the health care of Americans," said Moore. "Three quarters of our pharmaceuticals are based on chlorine chemistry. Adding chlorine to drinking water was the greatest advance in the history of public health, preventing millions of deaths from cholera and other waterborne diseases."
"Does the USGBC want to remove chlorine from the water supply in hospitals? Do they want doctors to stop using medicines that contain chlorine? Such a stance is both unthinkable and ridiculous. This anti-vinyl credit has no basis in science but is being pushed by groups with a political rather than a scientific agenda," said Moore.
"The USGBC must take a stand for evidence-based analysis and rescind this ill-thought credit," said Moore.