• What's in that paint?

    Credit: Flickr member Kaj17, licensed for use under Creative Commons

    What's in that paint?

Do you have asthma? Your office building could be the cause.

It may sound like a bad personal injury claim commercial on daytime television, but Perkins+Will is backing up the claim with a report that indoor environments are contributing to some widespread illnesses.

The report, “Healthy Environments: A Compilation of Substances Linked to Asthma,” focuses specifically on asthma and is a part of Perkins+Wills’s Transparency initiative. The initiative is an effort to promote healthier living in man-made environments. The idea is two-fold: The architecture firm is educating consumers on the side-effects of various building materials, and at the same time encouraging builders to choose alternatives to known harmful substances.

Asthmagens are one example of these toxic substances. Virtually everyone is exposed to them, because products containing asthmagens are so commonplace. Paints and adhesives—two products in every house, office, and shop—contain 75 substances linked to asthma, according to the report.

If consumers were more aware of this, they would most likely ask architects and builders to shy away from these materials. But even most professionals in the design and construction industry are in the dark when it comes to unhealthy building materials. 

“It’s a largely opaque market,” Peter Syrett, senior designer for Perkins+Will, and lead author of the report, told Forbes magazine. “When we buy a product from Home Depot, or build anything, there’s no way for a consumer to know what a product is made of unless the manufacturer tells you, and only a handful of them do.”

The report, the firm said, stems from a commission to build an asthma-free children’s health clinic. That request alone knocked 374 substances off the building materials list.