Our Story

“The connection between health and the dwelling of the population is one of the most important that exists.”   - Florence Nightingale

We believe that a healthy, sustainable world is possible: A world where the spaces in which we live, work, and play help us breathe easy, think clearly and feel more creative. Communities where all children thrive in schools, playgrounds and homes free of chemicals that harm developing bodies and minds. A future when our collective health soars because of our built environment.

We believe that a new generation of manufacturers and product developers is already among us: Visionaries committed to creating healthy, long-lasting, and renewable materials.

This is HBN’s dream: All people and the planet thrive when the environment is free of toxic chemicals. We invite you to join us as we bring this dream to life.

How We Work

Since 2000, HBN has defined the leading edge of healthy building practices that increase transparency in the building products industry, reduce human exposures to hazardous chemicals, and create market incentives for healthier innovations in manufacturing. We are a team of researchers, engineers, scientists, building experts, and educators, and pursue our mission on three fronts:

  1. Research & Policy — Uncovering cutting-edge information about healthier products and health impacts,
  2. Data Tools — Producing innovative software platforms that ensure product transparency and catalog chemical hazards, and
  3. Education and Capacity Building — Fostering others’ capabilities to make informed decisions

We work to reduce toxic chemical use, minimize hazards, and eliminate exposure, especially to those chemicals of concern deemed unnecessary or fail to improve product performance. We promote the development of affordable green chemistry solutions that support a healthy, successful, circular economy.

Why Buildings?

Building products are a focus of our work, due to the sheer volume of material they represent and our day-to-day interactions with them. We spend 90% of our time indoors, intimately exposed to the chemicals that migrate from our built environment.

The spaces in which we work, live, and play have an enormous impact on our health and productivity, so what we build with matters. It matters for our health; especially for the people within the manufacturing supply chain, construction trades, and facilities management whose jobs require constant exposures to products and chemicals. It matters for climate change mitigation; for our rivers and lakes, our agriculture, and our planet. All of these are increasingly polluted with toxic chemicals released by status quo building practices.

Social Justice

Evidence increasingly shows toxic chemical exposures may be costing the US billions of dollars, millions of IQ points, and disproportionately impacting the health of children, communities of color, low-income families, and other vulnerable populations.

According to Dr. David Bellinger, a professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School, “Children are being exposed to unrecognized toxic chemicals that are silently eroding intelligence, disrupting behaviors, truncating future achievements, and damaging societies.” For example:

  • Chemicals that are prohibited from children’s products are ubiquitous in the floors, carpets, artificial turf, playground surfaces, and furniture they interact with just as intimately as they do with their toys, clothing, or personal care products.
  • Marginalized communities are likely to be exposed to higher levels of toxic pollution, and often host manufacturing facilities that are sources of hazardous emissions.
  • Lower paid employees, such as factory, maintenance, and construction workers, are subject to some of the highest levels of toxic exposures.

Demanding and specifying healthier materials makes a difference throughout the entire system, and HBN works to ensure that these health benefits are accessible to all.

Achievements

By working together we have achieved large scale, high impact and systematic reductions in toxics hazards, such as eliminating arsenic from pressure treated wood and phthalates from vinyl flooring. In 2017 The Home Depot acknowledged HBN’s role in crafting their chemical strategy that eliminated 12 chemicals from the carpets, paints, vinyl flooring, and fiber glass insulation that they sell.

HBN has inspired and led the movement with a series of “firsts” that are transforming products. These include the first health-based materials credits adopted by LEED, part of the team that developed the first standard format for disclosing product content and health hazards (the HPD, Health Product Declaration), the first and most comprehensive database of chemical hazards in building products (Pharos Project), and the first thorough analysis of toxic hazards in recycled content and solutions for removal.

Vision

All people and the planet thrive when the environment is free of hazardous chemicals

Mission

To advance human and environmental health by improving hazardous chemical transparency and inspiring product innovation.

Values

Collaboration, Equity, Excellence, Independence, Innovation, Transparency, Trust, Science-Based

Know Better

When we know better, we can build a world where human health takes priority over toxics, and chemicals of concern are simply eliminated from our products. We will create a world where all people, and the planet, thrive. When we know better, we do better.

We invite you to explore how we work, benefit from our expertise, or make a donation.