Allergy Standards – Certifying Products for Healthier Interiors.
An Overview of the asthma & allergy friendly™ Certification for Specifiers
Allergy Standards Limited (ASL) is an independent, global certification company, that creates scientific standards for testing a wide range of products and services to determine their impact on improving indoor air quality. ASL has designed a series of unique testing protocols and suitability specifications for products to achieve in order to be CERTIFIED asthma & allergy friendly®.
ASL’s mission is to help people create the healthiest possible indoor environment through science, certification, education and innovation.
About Dr. Joey DeCourcey, Senior Scientific Officer at Allergy Standards
Dr. DeCourcey holds a PhD in Immunology and has over 10 years’ experience working in molecular, clinical and industry led research in Ireland and the UK. Dr. DeCourcey leads the R&D program at Allergy Standards and represents the company at international conferences. He liaises with lab partners to ensure that testing is carried out according to the rigorous standards developed at allergy standards for the asthma & allergy friendly® Certification Program and is the point of contact for technical and R&D staff for prospective and client companies.
- How do product claims such as the asthma & allergy friendly® Certification Programs encourage innovation in the building industry?
It is estimated that we spend up to 90% of our time indoors. The asthma & allergy friendly® Certification Program is built around the concept of a “whole of building” approach to indoor air quality. Every product or building material brought into your environment can introduce Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) or allergens. The Certification Program challenges Industry to innovate and develop products that contribute to a healthier indoor environment. Over 60% of asthma and allergy sufferers find it difficult to choose appropriate products for their homes and work spaces. Our Certification Mark helps specifiers to make informed buying decisions on behalf for their customers, not only for those with sensitive airways, but for anyone concerned about their indoor environment.
- How does the asthma & allergy friendly® Certification Program compare against other product claims in the building products industry such as the GreenGuard Gold and FloorScore?
The asthma & allergy friendly® Certification Program has a chemical and VOC aspect to the testing similar to other programs, however the program is mainly concerned with air-borne allergens and irritants that may aggravate sensitive individuals. As such we move beyond other industry certifications and assess the “in-use” phase of a products life-cycle.
For example, our flooring standard examines how well allergens can be cleaned from the flooring. If the flooring traps allergens, then you may have a build up and get exposed to allergens even when cleaning the floor regularly. Our insulation standard tests the amount of fibre that is shed during the installation to ensure that a high amount of fibre isn’t collected in the building during this phase. We also carry out longer terms studies to determine the ability of the insulation to support mold growth.
- Can you talk us through the testing process; using flooring for example.
After submitting your product for testing, we will review the details of the product range and send it to one of our approved testing partners situated world-wide. Testing can take 8-10 weeks to complete and usually includes chemical, biological and physical assessment.
Using the flooring standard as an example, it is broken into two main parts, the chemical and the allergen testing. The chemical testing is carried out in a small environmentally controlled chamber that collects the VOCs emitted from the product. The flooring is installed in a test chamber using any adhesives that are supplied or recommended by the manufacturer. There is no conditioning period and samples are collected at 1-day, 2-days and 14-days after installation. The levels of VOCs measured must be within the certification limits to pass. We assess these time points as often people move into their houses immediately after installation of flooring, and VOC can emit from a floor for an extended period of time. High-quality flooring should be within the recommended exposure limits for specific VOCs that can trigger symptoms in sensitive individuals.
The second part of the testing assesses the potential for the flooring to trap allergens and dust. The Flooring is installed in a large environmental chamber and test dust is introduced into the chamber and allowed to settle. The flooring is cleaned according to the manufacturer’s instructions and the air is sampled during the cleaning. After cleaning, the floor is tested to ensure that allergens are effectively removed from the surface. Flooring that can be cleaned well and does not trap dust and allergens reduces the risk of exposure.
Once a product has met the strict criteria set out in the standard it is then eligible to join the certification program.
- How important is Research and Development to a company seeking Certification and how do your scientists help them achieve the asthma & allergy friendly® Certification?
We challenge companies to innovate and create products that contribute to a healthier indoor environment. This often requires significant R&D efforts by the manufacturer. ASL offers services to partner with manufacturers in the R&D phase to ensure that products are suitable for those with sensitive airways. This is becoming increasingly important as it is estimated that by 2025 more than 50% of all Europeans will suffer from allergies. We partner with companies to provide landscape analysis, consultancy on performance testing or formulations, and collaborate to effectively market the health-based attributes of their product and the certification program. We draw on our experience not just in building materials, but also other industries such as consumer electronics and textiles to help consumers to create the best indoor air environment with the goal of avoiding any unnecessary allergy triggers in the home.
- How do companies use the Certification Mark in their marketing efforts and does it help them answering the consumer demand?
The asthma & allergy friendly® Certification Mark helps companies breaking through the clutter by differentiating themselves from the competition with the best quality products and supporting their claims with independent third-party Certification. A recent consumer survey shows that:
- 96% of “allergy-aware” consumers reported that they are sceptical of manufacturers allergy claims
- 88% of these are more likely to buy a product with an independent third-party seal of approval.
A recent report from the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies in the US highlighted that homeowners want to take greater action to address healthy-home issues and indoor air quality. However, consumers face obstacles such as lack of trustworthy, clear, and actionable information. Our Certification Mark helps consumers make better buying decisions. Securing a third-party certification demonstrates to consumers that manufacturers are invested in producing high-quality products that are independently validated.
- When Architects and Interior Designers are working on a new development how vital is it that they take this Certification into consideration when sourcing the companies to work with on their projects?
Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the products they are bringing into their home from electronics to flooring or the paint they put on their walls. With modern home becoming more sealed it is vital that we reduce the pollutants we introduce into our home. Indoor air is over 5 times more polluted than outdoor air. Architects and interior designers need to consider the indoor environment not only from an aesthetic or sustainable perspective but also from a health-based one. They have a responsibility to provide high-quality, sustainable products that contribute to a healthier indoor environment. The asthma & allergy friendly® certification is a trusted mark that allows specifiers to rest assured that they are sourcing high quality, rigorously tested products from a company that has gone the extra mile to innovate and add value. With increasing number of individuals suffering from allergic disease, there is a moral obligation on specifiers to build the healthiest indoor environment with high-quality products. This will also have the added benefit of building trust with their consumer base and raising awareness for a growing problem.
- With people becoming a lot more aware of Asthma and Allergies in the home have you seen much of an increase in companies looking to get this Certification?
Asthma and allergies are now a worldwide health issue with an estimated 235 million people currently suffering from asthma World Health Organisation (WHO). These numbers are increasing and with it an awareness of the importance of a healthier indoor environment. The consumer-driven health and wellness movement has influenced high-end global manufacturers to develop healthier products for their consumers in order to answer this market opportunity.
The number of companies seeking asthma & allergy friendly® Certification is steadily increasing over the past few years and there are now over 200 asthma & allergy friendly® CERTIFIED products from global companies such as LG, 3M, Tarkett, True Value, Crown Paints, Dyson, Delonghi, Ingersoll Rand and Benjamin Moore.
 European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology
 Surveys from the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) and Research Now of allergy-aware adults; 2018 100% USA Residents; Aged 18-65; 89% Female; 57% have children living at home.