Harmful pollutants

2030 Objective: Fully eliminate the use of harmful pollutants in the indoor environment.
Status: needs work

Harmful indoor pollutants, also known as substances of concern, are found in all types of products, from cleaning and maintenance products to electronics and furnishings. The ubiquitous nature of pollutants means there are many opportunities to address this 2030 objective. The City has funded a staff position for over fifteen years to address substances of concern in products along with other sustainable purchasing activities, such as sweatshop free supply chains and energy efficient electronics. The variety of the City’s sustainable procurement work and achievements have yielded national attention, but the work is far from complete.

Each employee can make a contribution to eliminating harmful pollutants in the workplace. Pollutants in our air have a compounding effect so each product or service decision is an opportunity to add to or take away from indoor air pollution. Learn more by visiting the City’s Sustainable Procurement website.

Supporting projects

Employee Sustainable Procurement Resources

In the summer of 2019, the Sustainable Procurement Program released a new portfolio of resources for employees to make more sustainable purchasing decisions, including guidance on selecting less-toxic products and services.  While resources continue to be developed, as of September 2019, the program has published: 20 new Sustainable Procurement Guides; 24 “Learn More” topic guides; and a robust Language Library with cut/paste sustainable product/service specifications along with other solicitation development resources.  The Sustainable Procurement Guides are intended to be an employee’s first stop for sustainable procurement product or service category guidance. They provide two-page overviews of what to look for, what to require, why, and how as it relates to making purchases in line with the City's Sustainable Procurement Policy's best practices (including avoiding substances of concern).  Each guide contains:

  • Minimum Sustainable Procurement requirements
  • Benefits and related "why" information
  • Hot Spot identification
  • How to procure (info on related City price agreements, etc.)

Depending on the product or service, the SPGs may also include sections on:

  • Other related tips (e.g. usage tips)
  • Disposal guidance

The SPGs are loaded with linked content so employees can find the level of information they need: from copy/paste specifications to "learn more" details on topics like low-emitting products, solvents, fluorinated chemicals, flame retardant chemicals, Health Product Declarations, and may others.

Sustainable Procurement Policy

In August 2018, City Council passed an update to the City’s Sustainable Procurement Policy. This update consolidated procurement-related sustainability policies, including previous mandates around reducing exposure to substances of concern.  One of the easiest best practices employees can take today is to stop buying canned air for cleaning keyboard trays. Lastly, one of the priority issue areas identified in the Policy involves “Prevent[ing] or otherwise reduce[ing] exposures to Substances of (Very) High Concern (SVHCs, SHCs).”  Over the next couple of years, program staff will be prioritizing issue areas and implementing projects, metrics, and reporting.

Clean Air Construction Standard

The Portland Air Toxics Study revealed a need to reduce average diesel particulate matter levels by 86 percent across the Portland Metro region to meet the State’s adopted health benchmark. Just over two-thirds, or 65 percent, of the region’s diesel particulate matter is emitted from nonroad equipment, such as construction equipment. Yet, Portland Metro government agencies do not have authority to regulate air quality. Consequently, in 2016 the City of Portland, the Port of Portland, Metro, Multnomah County, Clackamas County, and Washington County formed a regional workgroup, the Clean Air Construction Collaborative. The purpose of the workgroup was to develop a regional approach to reduce harmful diesel particulate matter pollution on public construction project sites.  The group developed a Clean Air Construction Standard to be adopted by each participating jurisdiction.  Phased in over a 7-year period, the Standard requires that all contractors working on public construction projects utilize cleaner on-road cement and dump trucks and nonroad diesel construction equipment. Compliance is achieved through use of newer vehicles/equipment, retrofits with emission control devices, or use of alternative fuels.  The City of Portland was the first jurisdiction to adopt the Standard in December 2018.