HBN’s independent and unbiased research is at the core of everything we do. We want to know, and we want you to know: What are our products made of? What does that mean for our health, our children’s health, seven generations of children? What does that mean for the people who live or work in the buildings we build and those who make and install the products we use? How do chemicals released as part of manufacturing affect our planet? By learning better, demanding better, and selecting better, we can ALL do better. HBN Research supports informed decision making for selecting products that contribute to a healthier world.

UNDERSTANDING THE PROBLEM

Chemicals can have devastating health impacts at vanishingly small doses. Dr. Bruce Lanphear explains how our current system of laws and regulations falls short of safeguarding children’s health from toxic substances in products, such as: mercury released to the environment from wallboard factories, lead or PCBs in recycled flooring, and flame retardants banned from some uses, but not furniture and carpeting.

UNDERSTANDING THE SOLUTIONS

HBN research points the way to healthier choices by applying five core principles:

Life Cycle Basis

We consider the local and global impact of a product on all people at every stage – raw materials, manufacturing, use, and recycling or disposal – taking into account future generations.

Precautionary Principle

The Precautionary Principles states: When an activity raises threats of harm to the environment or human health, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically. In other words, err on the side of safety.  

Hazard Avoidance

The most reliable way, based upon scientific evidence, to avoid harm (like cancer) is to avoid hazards (like chemicals that may cause cancer). Wherever possible, we must eliminate unnecessary toxic substances from our products, and identify the least toxic alternatives for those hazards that cannot yet be eliminated.

Full Transparency: The Right to Know

We are only able to make informed choices about what products to use or buy when product contents are fully and openly disclosed. We all have a right to know what chemicals are used in the products we buy, use, and live with.

Full Alternative Assessment

Informed choices about the products we use are only possible when all their ingredients have been fully assessed for health impacts. Most chemicals have not been, making it difficult to evaluate alternatives to known hazards. There must be an evidentiary basis for concluding that a chemical is safe. Where there has been no assessment, a chemical cannot be assumed safe for human health.

Manufacturers and supply chains have a path towards product optimization - a healthier product. Here are the steps:

1 Public Inventory
Product contents are transparent–fully identified, publicly disclosed, and characterized, along with certain material and product level information. Product ingredient records should be disclosed through the industry-adopted, standardized format–the Health Product Declaration.
2 Screening
Product contents are cross-referenced against authoritative chemical hazard lists to identify any human and environmental health hazards known to be associated with the individual contents. Screening may also include Restricted Substance Lists (RSLs), though when using RSLs, be aware of regrettable substitutions – chemical replacements as bad as or worse than the restricted chemical.
3 Assessment
Product contents are evaluated through a toxicological review of science literature, modeling, and analogues to identify the hazard profile across a full set of environmental and human health endpoints, such as cancer and neurotoxicity. Exposure may also be evaluated if necessary to prioritize high hazard substances for avoidance.
4 Optimization
Product contents are reformulated to use only chemicals that have been assessed as low in hazard. The ultimate goal is to systematically eliminate chemical hazards in products, prioritizing actions that reduce human exposure throughout the lifecycle, not just during the occupancy phase, but also considering extraction, manufacture, maintenance, and the end of functional use or the reuse of the material.

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Eliminating Toxics in Carpet:

Lessons for the Future of Recycling

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