What Are Health Product Declarations?

April 30, 2014

Plant growing in beakerHealth product declarations (HPDs) provide a full disclosure of the potential chemicals of concern in products by comparing product ingredients to a wide variety of “hazard” lists published by government authorities and scientific associations.  The goal of an HPD is to inform consumers about the types of chemicals that are in the products they install in their buildings.

Third-Party Testing

Similar to environmental product declarations (EPDs), HPDs are developed and audited by certified third-party testers who follow a protocol in testing the products and a standard format in reporting.  The Health Product Declaration Collaborative, a group of design, construction and building management firms convened by the Healthy Building Network and BuildingGreen, has developed the protocols and reporting templates for HPDs, which are called the HPD Standard.

HPDs apply to final assembly manufacturers and their suppliers. The HPD Standard states that all HPDs must include the following elements:

  • Content in Descending Order of Quantity – full disclosure of intentional ingredients and residuals or known hazards (if unknown, the role must be described)
  • Certifications and Compliance – VOC emissions or VOC content must list certifications and compliance for all interior finish materials and any wet-applied materials; other health or environmental performance testing can be disclosed as well
  • Accessory Materials – any products required for installation or for maintenance, cleaning or operations must be listed

Hazardous Chemicals Lists

The material lists provided by the manufacturer are cross-referenced against approximately 30 lists of hazardous chemicals developed for and ranked by the GreenScreen for Safer Chemicals. These lists include chemicals that pose health risks that rate moderate to very high for such indicators as cancer, endocrine disruption, reproductive and developmental toxicity, immune system effects, various skin issues, and more. In addition, lists of chemicals related to global warming, ozone depletion, pollution, prevention, and toxics, and halogenated flame retardants are also included.

According to the HPD Standard, the HPD is “solely a declaration of product content and direct health hazards associated with exposure to its individual contents.”

“It is not a full assessment of environmental impacts from the life cycle of this product. It is not an assessment of risks associated with actual use of the product.  It does not address the potential health impacts of substances used or created during manufacturing that do not appear in the final product as residuals, nor substances created during combustion or other degradation processes.”

Problems With HPDs

Three concerns have surfaced during the time that health product declarations have been available – implied health risks, logistics, and confidentiality. 1) The potential hazards disclosed under HPDs do not necessarily reflect actual risks and can mislead buyers. 2) Many companies find the data collection and reporting to be onerous, and need help. 3) Some companies are worried that required disclosures could compromise trade secrets.

If the ultimate goal of HPDs and EPDs is transparency in ingredient selection and safer and healthier buildings, then these declarations are certainly a step in the right direction.  HPDs and EPDs are now a part of the new version of LEED, v4, which will help them gain a foothold in the market.

Source: SCS Global Services

Photo: Courtesy of Shutterstock

HPD image: Courtesy of Certainteed



Dawn Killough

has over 15 years experience in the construction industry and is the author of Green Building Design 101, an e-book available from Amazon. She is a LEED AP and Certified Green Building Advisor, and has worked on the LEED Certification of three projects in Salem, Oregon.