Some call Portland, Oregon the greenest city in the United States, primarily due to its eco-friendly green homes. They achieve this status by attempting to ensure as many buildings as possible meet the green home standards. The four standards allowing a home to be rated a green home are Earth Advantage homes, Energy Star homes, Net-Zero Energy homes, and LEED homes. For home builders to meet these standards, it’s important to know that certain home building materials can produce chemicals that are damaging to the environment.

One building material that can be potentially harmful to the environment is asbestos, a carcinogen that can cause respiratory ailments and lead to lung cancer. It’s most often found in floor tiles, ceilings, and roofs because it insulates. Formaldehyde is another dangerous substance used in the manufacturing of buildings. It’s an adhesive and a composite in plywood. The International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies it as a carcinogen.

Chromated Copper Arsenic was widely used as a pesticide and preservative for lumber until the EPA phased it out in 2003. It can, however, still be found anywhere outside lumber is used, such as decks and picnic tables. CCA contains Chromium, copper, and arsenic. Overexposure to arsenic is known to cause a variety of cancers and to damage the nervous system.

Phthalates are industrial chemicals that are especially challenging to avoid when trying to build the greenest home possible. Used to make plastics more resilient, they can be found in everything from carpet backing to walls, ceilings, roofs, and insulation. Phthalates are feared to have a severely negative impact on the human hormone and reproductive system.

These are just a few of the home building in Portland materials that are most likely to harm the environment. Others include the perfluorinated compounds often found in carpet and the short-chained chlorinated paraffin present in some paints and caulks. Those wanting to build truly green homes should keep all of them in mind. Manufacturers have developed safer alternatives for those willing to do their research. As an example, to comply with the Clean Air Act Amendments, alternatives to formaldehyde are available. There are many formaldehyde-free products for paint and wood finishes. Even taking small steps in using as little of these harmful materials as possible can make a massive difference to the environment.