Good health and well-being in the home depends greatly on the quality of indoor air. Indoor air has many potential sources of pollutant emissions. Building products and furnishings also have a great impact on quality of indoor air.
Low-emission products for indoor spaces protect health
There are many indoor sources of pollutant emissions. Building products and furnishings can be a major source of them, and in order to make a choice available to consumers the Action Programme Environment and Health in German and others require that products which are compatible with the environment and health be labelled. Building products and furnishings in widespread use indoors are a key area of focus. This does not only help to protect one’s own health but also helps to protect the environment.
The Blue Angel – eco-label with high requirements
The Blue Angel is an emblem of health-conscious and environmentally aware purchasing. Products that bear this eco-label must meet high health requirements. For example, particularly harmful substances (i.e. carcinogenic, mutagenic, or teratogenic) may not be added in the production of these products. For the past several years emissions have been measured in various building products and indoor furnishings, and also limited in accordance with established maximum levels. Products that meet the requirements and are awarded the Blue Angel produce fewer emissions than conventional products, which is why their use protects users‘ health.
Four central protection goals as orientation
The eco-label has been categorized according to the protection goals health, climate, resources, and water. These protection goals are also inscribed on the Blue Angel label. Consumers can easily tell what environmental advantage the product offers and thus have some orientation when making a purchase decision.
The eco-label for low-emission products has gained popularity in recent years. More and more manufacturers are choosing to apply for the label so as to draw attention to the environmental and health protection benefits of their products. As a result, a range of well-known furniture, laminate flooring, panels, and linoleum have been awarded the eco-label for low-emission wood products and wood-base products after being tested extensively.
The Blue Angel mark on emulsion wall paints is also common. New criteria for additional products emerge every year, which are developed by the Federal Environment Agency in cooperation with consumer associations, measuring institutions and published as award criteria. Thermal insulation materials for indoor construction have recently been added to the products that bear the Blue Angel mark.
AgBB-scheme as basis of evaluation
Based on the Evaluation scheme for building products by the Committee for Health-related Evaluation of Building Products (AgBB), a new generation of environmental label has been created. The AgBB scheme assesses the emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOC) according to uniform, reliable, health-related criteria. It has been applied since 2003 in the award procedure for a new environmental label for adhesives used for floor coverings. Award criteria for upholstered furniture, mattresses, elastic and textile floor coverings, filler materials, and most recently for heat insulation materials have followed.
Furthermore, office equipment such as copiers, printers, and multifunctional devices may also be awarded the Blue Angel. They must demonstrate they are especially energy-efficient and meet strict requirements as concerns recyclable construction, pollutants in materials and emissions. The Eco-label Jury has listed printers under the protection goal "climate".
There has been a Blue Angel for wooden toys since 2009. Products with the mark go beyond the statutory requirements and contain no pollutants that might harm children‘s health. Emissions from the toys are also tested and subject to rigorous evaluation.
There are low-emission alternatives in most of the product groups relevant to the home and office (see table below).
Additional award criteria are in development or under review so as to adjust requirements to the state-of-the art and, ultimately, to raise the bar on these requirements. In sum, the new eco-label marks an important step towards labeling low-emissions products, thus complying with the demands made by APUG (Action Programme Environment and Health) to safeguard health.
Further information on criteria for award, marked products, and award procedure is available on the Blue Angel web site.
The impact of climate change will be felt more strongly in the future – and in Germany too. This is the conclusion reached in what is called the vulnerability analysis, a comprehensive study on Germany's vulnerability to climate change.