What’s In Your Adhesives?

Adhesives are undoubtedly one of the most ubiquitous materials found in any building or interior design project. They’re often used in large quantities and may not necessarily receive the same kind of attention as materials used for flooring, walls or furniture.

Yet their wide range of applications in a single space – such as glues in furniture or sealants used for waterproofing – means they can have a significant impact on the indoor environment.

Like many other furnishings and fittings, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) can be an issue with adhesives. VOCs can trigger a range of health problems such as respiratory irritation, allergies, headaches and asthma. One particularly common VOC found in adhesives and resins is formaldehyde, a known human carcinogen, despite its toxicity.

The potential health impacts don’t end there. Crystalline silica is a component of soil, sand, granite and other minerals, and can be found in many household adhesive products. If adhesive products are chipped, cut, drilled into or ground up after they set, any crystalline silica present may be broken down into particles small enough to be breathed in. Without proper safety precautions, this can set up workers for silica exposure and silicosis, a lung disease that has no cure.

Adhesives can have a negative impact on the environment as well. Titanium dioxide, zinc oxide and lithopone are a few examples of compounds often found in adhesives and related building materials. Producing these compounds uses large amounts of energy and generates quantities of waste to match, and their manufacture also results in air and water emissions.

Unfortunately, since adhesives get far less attention and forethought than other materials used in a project, their sustainability and health attributes are frequently overlooked, or more susceptible to substitution from workers on site. Tradespeople are far more likely to make a quick trip to their local hardware store to pick up whatever glues and sealants are available – they wouldn’t do this for paints, floorings or furnishings!

The best way to ensure sustainable adhesives are being used is to look for evidence of third-party certification, such as the ecolabel from Good Environmental Choice Australia (GECA). The GECA label demonstrates that a product meets strict criteria for environmental, health and social impact. CSR Gyprock, Ardex Australia and Sika Australia have some adhesive and sealant products certified with GECA.

It’s also a matter of awareness between those who specify products for a project, those in charge of overseeing the work, and the tradespeople themselves to make sure everyone is on the same page regarding adhesive use. Keeping a ready supply of products on site can be one simple way to ensure better products are being used.

Content provided by Good Environmental Choice Australia (GECA).
Find out more at www.geca.org.au