D. The role of national governments
National and local governments have a crucial role to play in the control of hazards associated with building materials by providing, economic incentives and taking regulatory and non-regulatory actions appropriate to specific country contexts. Economic incentives should be directed to popularize the alternatives available for the substitution of materials harmful to health and the possibility of introducing product charges should be considered to discourage the use of harmful materials. Local governments should ensure that building regulations are made more restrictive to the use of harmful materials in buildings. Non-regulatory actions may include government sponsorship of research, the promotion of standards and specifications and the organization of demonstrations projects. Specific actions by governments are presented below.
Regulatory and Legislative Framework
In spite of the growing awareness over the last 20 years of the potential hazards associated with building materials, legal prohibition of materials known to be potentially hazardous has been slow to follow. As earlier on indicated, where such regulations are enacted, the administrative costs and bureaucracy involved in implementing them are very considerable, and are likely to act as a severe disincentive to their use.
In Europe, the Construction Products Directive has been adopted, with the intention of introducing uniform standards of health and safety across the growing European Union. To be placed on the market, all construction products will have to conform to, or enable the resulting construction works to conform to, certain essential requirements, including a requirement for hygiene, health and the protection of the environment. Compliance will enable the product to be labelled with a characteristic European Community (EC) mark. European standards are currently being developed for the individual materials and product which will incorporate the specified essential requirements. One of these requirements is that “the construction works must provide healthy indoor air for occupants and building users”, which specify the various sources of pollutants which need to be taken account of. Under the Directive, the burden of proof will shift to the manufacturer to demonstrate the fitness of the product for its intended use: the definition of fitness has been expanded to include issues of health, safety, and the environment (80).
The approach will gradually replace the essentially voluntary systems of standards currently used in individual countries. The new standards will clearly be of global significance.
Areas of legislation which need to be considered by governments include:
• control of hazardous materials: laying a duty on employers to protect all whom they employ from avoidable exposure; identifying safe occupational limits of exposure; requiring training of all employees involved;
Economic incentives can play a crucial role in changing the production and consumption patterns in relation to harmful building materials. Such incentives can include: product charges to discourage the production and use of materials and products which are hazardous to human health, and financial incentives to promote the recycling and reuse of wastes.
In addition to the indicated regulatory measures, governments can promote the control of health hazards through the following non-regulatory measures:
• Research and information: As funding bodies for research, governments have a responsibility to promote and ensure that adequate funds are made available for the development of safe building materials and production processes;
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