The United Nations Commission on Human Settlements, in its decision 14/16 of 5 May 1993, requested the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat) to explore the possibility of drafting an informative document on: (a) such building materials in the housing sector that are harmful or potentially harmful to people’s health and the environment, and (b) alternative building materials that could substitute for such materials. In addressing adverse environmental effects produced by construction activities in general, and building materials in particular, the Centre has conducted research study and published a document entitled: “Development of National Technological Capacity for Environmentally-Sound Construction”, (HS/293/93E). This publication identifies ways in which construction activities contribute to different areas of environmental stress and proposes measures for reducing adverse environmental impacts through adoption and enforcement of effective strategies and regulations, application of improved technologies and through design and modified practices in construction.
In the past decade or so there has been increasing concern among scientists and professionals about the suitability of certain building materials to environment and human health. The health hazards associated with building materials has been subject of discussion in many fora and the time has come to look into the matter closely. Given the importance of health as one of the most pressing areas of social concern, and in view of the variety of health hazards which need to be addressed, a range of studies have already been conducted by leading experts and agencies which discuss mainly the health hazards related to selected building materials.
This publication covers a comprehensive research study conducted by UNCHS (Habitat) which focuses exclusively on ways in which a variety of building materials contribute to different aspects of health hazards, and the means available for prevention or mitigation of their adverse impact on health. The study outlines also an implementation strategy which could serve as a basis for controlling the health hazards associated with building materials.
We gratefully acknowledge the contribution of Mr. Robin Spence, of the Cambridge Architectural Research Limited of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in preparing a draft background paper on which the present publication is largely based. We also gratefully acknowledge numerous scientists and national/international agencies who provided comments and very useful inputs to the first draft of this document. Finally, our thanks go to Mr. Kalyan Ray and Mr. Keso Msita of UNCHS (Habitat) who initiated the research design and to Mr. Baris Der-Petrossian also of UNCHS (Habitat) who finalised the document.
It is hoped that this publication win be of interest to its readers and that it will complement other studies produced so far.
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