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The three most toxic materials and their alternatives

05/    01  /   2023

Top 3 toxic chemicals found in building materials

Asbestos and Lead are well known for their harmful effects to humans and the environment; however, there are also many other toxic chemicals that are part of commonly used building and most people might not be aware of them. Here are our top 3.


Formaldehyde is a chemical that is highly toxic to humans. Exposure occurs primarily by inhalation of gas released by formaldehyde or by skin contact with liquids that contain it. Evidence shows formaldehyde can cause cancer. Building materials that could contain Formaldehyde are:

  • Flooring

  • Plywood

  • Particle board

  • Sheathing

  • Glues and adhesives


Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs)

PBDEs are compounds that are used as fire retardants. Prolonged exposure to these chemicals can cause tumors, estrogen and thyroid issues, brain development problems, as well as reduce fertility. Building materials that could contain PBDEs are:

  • Carpet padding

  • Wire Insulation

  • Polyurethane foam

  • Fabrics


Perifluorinated chemicals (PFCs)

PFCs are compounds that are heat resistant and are used to repel grease, oil, stain, and water. Exposure to these chemicals can cause cancer, high cholesterol, weak immune system, liver damage, thyroid issues, damage to reproductive systems as well as birth defects.

  • Carpet resistant to stain

  • Water resistant wood based products

  • Oriented Strand board (OSB)


BONSAI is committed to sustainable design practices; we have experience using sustainable materials in all facets of construction. Reach out if you are interested in exploring healthy, sustainable and energy efficient architecture + construction for your project!  

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