The use of fiberglass insulation has long been controversial among green builders, with one of the main objections being the formaldehyde based binder that held it all together in batts. Of course the industry and the American Chemistry Council will tell you that it is all perfectly natural, that it doesn't get through the drywall and the finishes and even that it "contributes to a sustainable future for wood products" by gluing wood chips together into particleboard. But in fact, it is a toxicant and a carcinogen, and the green builders have been pushing back for years.
Now, according to Jim Vallette of Healthy Building News, "As of October 2015, every fiberglass insulation company in the United States and Canada has phased out the use of formaldehyde-based binders in lightweight residential products."
This is great news for a number of reasons. First and most importantly, it means we will have healthier houses. I have written that as houses get tighter, it becomes more important that everything in them be healthy and safe. "The fact of the matter is, this stuff shouldn't be in your house. It is a carcinogen at higher doses, and the housing industry is building boxes that seem to be designed to concentrate it. "
But the other great thing is that it shows that the green building industry has the power to effect change. Jim Vallette describes the history:
The signal from the green building community grew brighter. The Living Building Challenge's Red List, introduced in 2007, banned the use of products with added formaldehyde, and was gaining traction. Our Pharos Project database launched in 2009, and disclosed the binders used in most insulation on the market. A month later, Perkins + Will, a national leader in green building design, introduced its own precautionary list, including formaldehyde.
The market received the signals and changed. In late 2008, Knauf Insulation released its EcoBatt fiberglass insulation. CertainTeed began producing its formaldehyde-free Sustainable Insulation in 2010 for both residential and commercial/industrial applications. And in 2011, Owens Corning launched its formaldehyde-free EcoTouch brand.
He notes that "A well-informed marketplace, not federal or state environmental regulation, drove this change." That, and groups like the Healthy Building Network that informed that marketplace. They should be proud.