Rubber roofing is very common to see on larger industrial and commercial buildings. The more common materials used are PVC, TPO and EPDM. A new study has found that some common EPDM roofing material might pose a health hazard. The EPDM Roofing (ERA) Association has found many flaws in the claim.

The Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory (LBNT) conducted a study comparing differently colored EPDM roofs, the case looked at white, green and black EPDM roofs over a 50 year analysis. The main point of the study was to figure out which color material proved to be the most economical over time. The study also included a side note that has the EPDM Roofing Association questioning the entire study.

The note stated, “The fact that the large public health advantages of green or white roofs over black roofs cannot be incorporated into an economic analysis indicates that private actors will not always make the socially optimal roofing choice.”

The study found that over time that white roofing was the most cost effective color, but only by a slim margin, saving $2.40 per square foot over fifty years. Ultimately the study found that black rubber roofing poses threats in the risks associated with heat, and heat related illnesses, as black roofing can contribute to urban island heating effect. The study utilized 22 roofs over the 50 year period.

The ERA was not too happy with the health claims. “That blew us away,” said Mike Durcharme, a marketing director at an EPDM manufacturer. The ERA argued that during the summer the black roofs certainly do get hotter than the white ones but that this is countered in the winter when the black roofing is beneficial to a home.

The ERA also found problems in the testing procedures used by the LBNT, claiming that many of the roofs should not be compared to each other as they were of different qualities and that the tested number of 22 was much too low to reach any conclusions.

The ERA also claims that the actual roofing membrane is only just one part of the entire roofing system and studies should not be pinned on the one component.