[This is a post on my new Truth in Marketing blog. Page formatting to come.]
On the very day I was working on setting up Truth in Marketing, a consulting client asked me to evaluate the sheetrock that her contractor wanted to use in the new home she is having built.
She sent me two documents: a Safety Data Sheet* and a Health Product Declaration**. She could find these documents, but couldn’t understand them, So she sent them to me so I could tell her if this sheetrock was safe to install in her new home. The Health Product Declaration was new to me. I hadn’t seen one like this before.
The Safety Data Sheet said what I thought it would say: Not classified as a hazard, made from gypsum, cellulose, and silica, with a warning about the silica dust when cutting. It’s not a toxic product.
The Health Product Declaration gave MUCH more information, of the sort I had never seen before, but it was difficult to read. So difficult, in fact, that it took me a half hour to figure it out, something I would not have done if I wasn’t so interested in eliminating toxics.
Here’s what I found on page 1:
Even though it is common to run the list of ingredients for a product all together in one paragraph on a product label, it’s just not necessary to do that in a written document and this format makes it very hard to read.
So I separated it all out so I could read it and it looked like this:
See how much easier this is to read?
The next step was to locate all these abbreviations. On page 11 I found that they were GreenScreen scores that indicated the relative toxicity of each ingredient.
From the HPD I learned there are many ingredients in sheetrock that are not listed in the SDS, most notably Boric Acid, which is likely Benchmark 1 “chemical of high concern.” However, what this document doesn’t say is that once the sheetrock is installed and covered with paint, the end user at home will not be exposed to it at all.
I greatly admire this HPD document for disclosure of materials and indicating their relative toxicity. This is exactly the kind of data we need. But it needs to be presented in a way that is more clear and simple for consumers. At the very least the abbreviations should be on page one with the materials and not on page 11.
Different people need different levels of information about toxics. These SDS and HPD may satisfactorily serve their intended users, but are not documents designed for consumers who are making product choices. We consumers need information we can understand quickly and easily so we can have confidence that products we choose are safe for our own use and the use of our loved ones.
* I will soon be writing a Zero Toxics file with full information on Safety Data Sheets, but for the moment I will say these sheets have been around for some years, previously called Material Safety Data Sheets in the USA. They are designed for workers to inform them of toxic hazards on the job. But they are not designed for consumers who are exposed to these same chemicals in their homes.
** Health Product Declarations are a more recent document. Again, I will be writing a Zero Toxics file with full information. I need to research them first.