The EPA says indoor is up to two to five times more polluted than outdoor air. The majority of indoor air pollutants come from volatile organic compounds (VOC's) emitted from household products or building materials manufactured from or coated with harmful chemicals. While many VOC's are not acutely toxic in themselves, they still represent a significant health threat if ingested or inhaled over long periods of time. New buildings generate the greatest risk, in that the freshly-made surfaces have the highest likelihood of chemical off-gassing.
Concern for the oversight of indoor air quality led Marilyn S. Black, PhD and LEED AP, to create the GREENGUARD Environmental Institute in 2001, a non-profit organization dedicated to fighting indoor air pollution by way of a comprehensive certification system for product manufacturers. "Because so many of the materials in our buildings these day are synthetic materials, they're materials we make with chemicals, they off-gas - they produce fumes," says Larry Speck, and award winning architect, on the organization's web site. GREENGUARD is an industry independent, third party organization that certifies low-emitting products and materials.
The organization has two levels of certification, GREENGUARD and GREENGUARD Children and Schools. The latter contains a stricter set of standards for the most sensitive of built environments, including childcare facilities, schools, and residential building.
While the green building movement re-evaluates how the construction industry is impacting the outer environment, true sustainability must take into account the health and well-being of human beings. With GREENGUARD certification, the building community - and its occupants, can breathe a little easier.