Pruning chemicals from the green building landscape

J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol. 2020 Mar;30(2):236-246. doi: 10.1038/s41370-019-0174-x. Epub 2019 Oct 7.


Green building design has substantially minimized environmental impacts by reducing energy consumption compared with traditional buildings. Yet, it is not uncommon for a green building to meet the highest criteria for energy efficiency and be built with materials that contain chemicals hazardous to occupant health. Because of this discrepancy in achieving holistic sustainability, the architecture/engineering/construction (AEC) industry has never been more interested in occupant health and well-being than it is today. At the same time, numerous scientific studies have documented exposures to and associated health effects of chemicals used in building materials. Opportunities to translate environmental health research so that it is useful to the AEC community exist across the landscape of healthier buildings. For example, research can be conducted to prioritize building material and chemical combinations to demonstrate how green building certification systems, government building codes, and the building products marketplace can increase energy performance while also addressing the greatest chemical exposures and health impacts. In order for scientific research to be used to create and support healthier environments, researchers should design and translate their research with this landscape in mind and should consider experts in the AEC industry as ambassadors for change. We provide key examples of how scientists have promoted healthy building practices and highlight additional research opportunities.

Keywords: flame retardants; inhalation exposure; perfluorinated chemicals; phthalates; volatile organic compounds.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Construction Industry*
  • Environment
  • Environmental Pollutants*
  • Health Status
  • Humans


  • Environmental Pollutants