Energy, water use, and environmental impacts are among the first topics that researchers consider in sustainable materials development. However, minimizing the negative human health impacts of materials and their production processes is just as critical to ensuring the safety of current and future generations. Spurred by recent industry actions, such as internal retailer policies (e.g. chemical "red lists") and green building rating systems like Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) that are incorporating more stringent requirements around materials impacts, manufacturers are increasingly expected to account for both the environmental and human health aspects of their products. Because of this, they are looking for ways to redesign or reformulate their products to meet the needs of the changing marketplace. In some cases, manufacturers have difficulty finding substitutions for chemical and material ingredients deemed unsuitable due to their negative effects.
This situation presents both new considerations for researchers creating novel materials destined for the marketplace, as well as new opportunities for research into safer material chemistries and processing methods.
This talk will make a case for human health considerations being an integral, yet oft-overlooked, component of sustainable materials development. It will highlight important governmental policies and regulations in this arena, recent industry actions impacting environmental and human health considerations of materials, and present new opportunities for research.