Allergy Standards Ltd.(ASL)
Allergy Standards Ltd.(ASL), an independent, international certification company, uses Design Thinking principles to operate the world’s most recognised certification program for the allergy aware consumer. ASL develops standards for innovation and testing of a wide range of consumer products and services and has developed a series of unique testing protocols and suitability specifications for products to achieve in order to be CERTIFIED asthma & allergy friendly®. ASL applies innovative thinking with researchers, manufacturers and retailers throughout their supply chain, to create a healthier indoor environment.
The Allergy Standards Academy- for Professionals dedicated to the design, construction and management of the built environment to optimize healthy indoor air.
Allergy Standards Limited (ASL) is delighted to be several new courses and Design Thinking workshops now available on the ASL Academy, an online educational platform delivered through a unique web portal. The ASL Academy is designed to bridge knowledge gaps around the growing issue of poor indoor air quality and to deliver practical solutions to improve the lives of people impacted by asthma and allergies
The expert learning modules, available in the ASL Academy, have been developed by the science and business experts behind the internationally renowned asthma & allergy friendly® Certification Program.
The latest learning program in the Academy is the Healthier Homes Awareness (HHA) for Building Professionals.
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This unique program has also achieved the following Continued Education Units (CEUs)
7 LU|HSW AIA, 7 NARI, 7 RESNET, 7 NAHB, and 3.5 BPI credits
The launch of the HHA program comes at a time when Indoor Air Quality is deteriorating and the medical consequences of this deterioration are increasingly common and more serious.
According to the EPA Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) can be up to 5 times more polluted than outdoor air. Awareness of ‘invisible’ air quality challenges is spiking due to adverse weather related events such as seasonal forest fires, “pollen tsunamis” and the global pandemic.
The Healthier Homes Awareness (HHA) for Building Professionals has been developed to coincide with spring allergy season and will also incorporate the new mindset of ‘better indoor air’ that has been triggered by Covid 19.
The academic lead for this program will be Dr. John McKeon. Dr McKeon is CEO of Allergy Standards, and is internationally recognised for delivering cutting edge talks and workshops on innovation.
The program will also examine how material science alone is not sufficient in creating better buildings and will delve into the complex issue of product features versus product outcomes. It will show how empathic conversations with clients – asking the right questions- will deliver the best outcomes and examine how the construction industry is responding to the new hyper-awareness of pathogens, such as SARS-CoV-2, in our air.
This demand for better understanding of Indoor Air Quality has highlighted a knowledge gap existing in the professional building community and in the wider retail sector. Allergy Standards is perfectly positioned to bridge this gap as an industry leader in this field by offering this innovative and highly relevant course. At Allergy Standards, design thinking has allowed the merging of scientific processes with empathic listening to consumer needs. By being human-centric in our approach to the increasing issue of ‘bad’ indoor air, we consider the emotions and the needs of the consumer but also the impact of building materials, furnishings and use patterns of an inhabited building.
Essentially, it is now time to focus on the impact building materials and products have on the consumer’s environment and consequently the effect this environment has on population health. The ASL Academy allows ASL to interface more with the professional building community, opening the way for the necessary shift in the industry from an engineering focus to a people- centred, healthy design approach.
This reinforces ASL’s mission which is to educate and empower people to create the healthiest possible indoor environment through science, certification, and innovation.
The Academy will also include modules covering Design Thinking, digital transformation and other non-technical skills training. These comprehensive programs will address issues such as the rising demand for clean indoor air with the ‘indoor generation’. It will enable those in the building and design industry understand the science of asthma and allergies, their indoor triggers, and the impact of asthma and allergies on human health.
Enrolment in the Healthier Homes Awareness (HHA) for Building Professionals, in the ASL Academy, is available to all those in the professional building and design industries, retailers and those interested in gaining insight into the creation of healthier homes for all.
An Overview of the asthma & allergy friendly® Certification of Building Materials
The asthma & allergy friendly® Certification Program seeks to assist people to identify products which will make a genuine difference to their indoor environment. It develops certification standards for relevant categories of products, and all certified products undergo testing to those standards. In this way, the consumer can then make an informed choice about materials like paint, flooring products, and insulation that they bring into their home.
Why do we certify paint?
In the case of paint, the release of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) from the paint during and after application can impact on those with sensitive airways. Additionally, some chemicals used in paint can cause sensitivities or even allergic reactions. Our standard addresses these issues.
It is not possible to make paint without using chemicals, and there are some chemicals which can have a negative effect but which are necessary for different reasons. We want to identify paints that do not contain ingredients that are unnecessarily harmful. And we want to make sure that any necessary chemicals that can sometimes cause an allergic reaction are present at as low a level as is needed for them to function as intended.
What do we look for in paints?
We look at three things when we test paints.
The first is how many VOCs are emitted when the paint is applied. We paint a sample surface with the paint and place it in an environmentally controlled chamber, where we can measure all of the VOCs released over 14 days. We record the levels after 24, 48, and 336 hours, to make sure that throughout this time period the levels remain low.
The second is the paint’s performance – this means that we want paints to act like paint. When you paint them on the wall, they should stick to the wall properly, they should dry in a reasonable time, it should be possible to scrub them in a reasonable way without them breaking down, and it should be possible to clean a reasonable level of stain from them. There are standardised tests for all of these things, and we make sure that these have been passed for each paint that we certify.
3. Constituent review
The third is the make-up of the paint. We do a detailed chemical assessment of all the constituents in the paint, and what concentration they are present at. There are many chemicals which are known to irritate skin and/or eyes or to which certain people can be particularly sensitive. But if they are present at a suitably low level and used correctly this is unlikely to cause problems.
Why do we certify flooring?
Our goal in the asthma & allergy friendly® Certification Program is to create a healthier indoor environment and so we look at all elements of the indoor air environment. Some types of flooring can release chemicals when they are applied, particularly if they are designed to be installed using adhesive. And it is easier for allergens to get trapped on some types of flooring.
We take a balanced approach in certifying products. We want to identify flooring that do not contain materials that are unnecessarily harmful. And we want to make sure that any necessary chemicals that can sometimes cause an allergic reaction are present at as low a level as is needed for them to function as intended.
What type of flooring do we certify?
We certify resilient flooring, including luxury vinyl flooring, sheet vinyl flooring, vinyl tile, linoleum, and sports flooring. We do not currently certify carpet, but we are always open to exploring new types of flooring.
What do we look for in flooring?
We look at two areas when we test flooring.
1. Allergen Removal
The first is allergen removal. We install flooring in an environmentally-controlled chamber. We introduce allergen dust into the room and allow it to settle. We take some samples from the flooring to see how much allergen has settled on it. We then vacuum and mop the flooring according to defined instructions. We take samples again after cleaning, and compare the two results to make sure that the allergen levels on the floor have reduced by over 90%. We also take allergen measurements in the air during cleaning, and we check that allergen levels in the air do not increase by more than 10% during cleaning.
The second is how many VOCs are emitted when the flooring is installed. VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) are chemical compounds that easily become vapours or gases. When you can smell paints, adhesives, cleaners, insect repellents, new furniture, printer fluid etc., these smells are caused by VOCs being released.
We place a sample of flooring in an environmentally controlled chamber, where we can measure all of the VOCs released over 14 days. We record the levels after 24, 48, and 336 hours, to make sure that throughout this time period the levels remain low. If the flooring is designed to be secured with adhesive, then we include the adhesive in this chamber test.
Why do we include the adhesive when you test flooring?
Adhesive can be a source of VOCs, and different adhesives can give off different levels and types of VOCs. When you have flooring installed in your home, if it requires an adhesive then the indoor air environment could be impacted by both VOCs from the flooring and VOCs from the adhesive. So it makes sense that we would include the adhesive in the chamber test to find out what VOCs would be produced in a home environment.
Some types of insulation can contain or release chemicals that can cause sensitivity, particularly while they are being installed and directly afterwards. There can be fibres, airborne particles, and dust released during and after installation. And some insulation can support mold growth.
We want to identify insulation that does not contain materials that are unnecessarily harmful.
What kind of insulation do we certify and why?
We certify fiberglass insulation. This is because it is a material which can be made without some of the potentially sensitising chemicals that are present in some types of insulation, such as halogenated flame retardants. It is also relatively cost-effective, and therefore provides a reasonable option for consumers wishing to find healthier options for their homes.
What do we look for in insulation?
We look at four areas when we test fiberglass insulation.
1. Dust and fibers released during installation
The first is the dust and fibers released during installation. We install insulation in an environmentally-controlled chamber. During the installation we measure the amount of dust that is produced, and the amount of small fibers that are released into the air. We agitate the dust during this test, to mimic a person walking around near the insulation. We measure the amount of dust and fibers that are produced, and set strict limits for those.
Why can dust and fibers be harmful?
Airborne fibers and dust can irritate the eyes, nose, throat and lungs. This can affect anyone, although the effects are likely to be stronger in those with asthma or allergies. This is kind of irritation does not usually cause long-term damage. Fibers can also irritate the skin, however this is not due to any chemicals in the fibers but rather that because of the way they are structured they can scratch the skin.
Most exposure to the dust and fibers in fiberglass insulation occurs in people whose job is to install insulation. The fibers are generally only released during and just after installation.
The second is how many VOCs are emitted when the insulation is installed. We place a sample of insulation in an environmentally controlled chamber, where we can measure all of the VOCs released over 14 days. We record the levels after 24, 48, and 336 hours, to make sure that throughout this time period the levels remain low.
3. Resistance to mold growth
The third is whether or not the insulation supports mold growth. It is sometimes claimed that fiberglass insulation is inherently resistant to mold growth. However, some studies have shown that mold can grow on fiberglass insulation, particularly when the right moisture and temperature conditions are present. So we place mold spores on pieces of insulation in the lab, and keep them at high temperature and humidity for four weeks to see if the mold spreads. Only insulation that does not support mold growth is eligible for certification.
4. Constituent review
The fourth is the make-up of the insulation. We do a detailed assessment of all the materials used to make the insulation, and what concentration they are present at.
One particular issue relating to insulation is the flame retardant that is required in some forms of insulation for safety reason. Traditionally the type of flame retardant used in many types of insulation is called a halogenated flame retardant, and the most common form was called HBCD. HBCD is a pollutant, and can increase the toxicity of a building. It has now been banned in many countries, and has been replaced other materials. However, most of these other materials have similar chemical structures to HBCD, and there is a lack of long-term evidence on their impacts. By its nature fiberglass insulation does not need to have flame retardants in it for safety reasons. Our certification standard requires that none of these flame retardants are present.