Clarification regarding GreenGuard certification

23 10 2009

Hi folks:  I heard from Josh Jacobs, Technical Information Manager at GreenGuard about what they feel is misleading information in last weeks post about the fees charged by GreenGuard.  I told them I’d publish their clarification, so here it is:

“Fees charged to participating manufacturer’s in the GREENGUARD Certification ProgramSM vary depending upon a couple of reasons; certification and testing. The certification fee takes into account company size and administrative, application and licensing fees. Testing, which is not conducted by the GREENGUARD Environmental Institute, but is required for certification, will also vary depending on the number of products a manufacturer is looking to have certified and the amount of testing that is needed. The fee that was mentioned in the prior blog post would typically include anywhere from five to more than 25 products and they would come from multiple manufacturing locations/facilities. Additionally, this would in most instances encompass tests that help categorize numerous products into similar product groupings and manufacturing reviews which are not applicable following the first year of certification.

We appreciate being mentioned alongside other credible third-party certification programs and standards and wanted to make sure that the textile industry understood that the entry fee for attaining GREENGUARD Certification is not as steep as has been published in other venues. We value O Ecotextiles efforts to distribute accurate information and their support of true third-party certifications. We thank them for the opportunity to speak with them regarding this misunderstanding in the marketplace.”


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25 10 2009
Hernandez

I like your factual approach!

Did Mr. Jacobs mention that before he was Technical Information Manager for Greenguard he was the Marketing Manager for Air Quality Sciences?

At best, non-profit Greenguard is no more independent from the for-profit Air Quality Sciences than siblings with the same parent. At worst, Greenguard may only have independence from AQS on paper.

In early spring this year, Air Quality Sciences posted job openings for a marketing manager and for an account manager (I will email you copies). The description for the AQS market manager says in part:

“This position will be responsible for overseeing marketing programs designed to drive GREENGUARD brand awareness and help achieve defined revenue goals.”

Two of the “ESSENTIAL DUTIES” listed for the AQS market manager include:

“Manage GREENGUARD website re-design, including directing the agency and working cross functionally with key internal department to deliver a best in class solution.”

And:

“Develop and implement consumer activation program to educate defined target consumer on importance of indoor air quality and drive awareness for GREENGUARD.”

These job postings are no longer on the AQS website, and now similar job postings are listed as Greenguard jobs on the Greenguard website. However, Greenguard and AQS continue to “share” a headquarters and personnel.

I think this is an obvious conflict-of-interest with an unstated focus on profit, (every manufacturer who participates in Greenguard must pay AQS for testing, who by definition is a for-profit testing business), which seriously undermines the credibility of the Greenguard certification.

Even worse, Greenguard/AQS press releases have been targeting new parents and focusing on furnishings for infants (try counting the number of children in photos on their website). Chemical toxicity, indoor air quality, and children’s health are serious issues, but Greenguard/AQS has not published the ventilation conditions of their proprietary requirements for certifying children’s furniture for homes and bedrooms.

This is important, because the concentration of a contaminant (amount present in a lungful of air) depends on how much clean air is supplied in a space. Greenguard/AQS uses limits for contaminants based on commercial office and school classroom ventilation rates, which usually have much more clean air supplied. Without knowing how much ventilation is used when cribs are certified, users have no way to know if the products exceed the stated limits in their own homes.

As you pointed out, Greenguard requirements only address chemicals emitted into air. They do not address toxic content. Much of children’s exposure is oral and dermal (through skin).

As you also mentioned, Greenguard for Children & schools includes requirements for phthalates. Danish and US research indicates phthalates are showing up in dust, and are not emitted by materials the same way volatile compounds are (volatiles emit faster). Yet, Greenguard uses testing intended for volatiles, which has not been shown to be effective when detecting phthalate exposure. Therefore I think an assurance from Greenguard about phthalates is very misleading.

And Greenguard/AQS certifying fabrics alone is often not particularly helpful, as it does not mean that when the fabrics are applied to other products that the products are low in VOC emissions.

Of course, Greenguard certifying fabrics alone does create another whole industry to provide ongoing revenue for AQS (quarterly, annually, etc.).

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