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Selected Category: Green

Green Buildings and Human Health

Categories: Construction, Green, Prevention Through Design

Earlier this year I participated in the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) Summit on Green Buildings and Human Health. At USGBC’s invitation, I authored a blog that appears on their website. We are co-posting the blog on the NIOSH Science Blog. The Summit was very successful, and USGBC is open to including worker issues into their initiatives. Please share your thoughts on this important issue in the comment section below.


Tackling the many challenges of making the construction and occupation of commercial and residential buildings in the United States green and sustainable is not an easy one, but the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is to be congratulated for working aggressively to address them. Championing commitments to environmental sustainability, energy reduction, social equity, and human health demonstrate the commitment of the USGBC to take steps that will benefit both the environment and the businesses that construct, as well as occupy, these structures. LEED[1] has evolved over time on a trajectory towards true sustainability. USGBC is to be commended further for looking introspectively at how health is considered in LEED, and the relative priority given to energy and environmental factors.

Help Wanted: Spray Polyurethane Foam Insulation Research

Categories: Chemicals, Construction, Engineering Control, Exposure, Green, Personal Protective Equipment

walls insulated with spray polyurethane foamEnvironmentally friendly doesn’t necessarily mean worker friendly. In many cases, new “green” technologies and products have reached the market without being adequately evaluated to determine whether they pose health or safety risks to workers in manufacture, deployment, or use. Spray polyurethane foam—commonly referred to as SPF—is a case in point. Its use as insulation has been on the upswing because of the laudable aim of builders and property owners to improve energy efficiency. As popular as it has become, however, much remains unknown about spray polyurethane foam—specifically the health implications of its amines, glycols, and phosphate upon workers.

Polyurethane foam has a high R-factor (or R-value), so it resists the flow of heat and, when used as insulation, increases a building’s energy efficiency. Because of this, it has become a favorite in the world of energy-conscious construction and renovation. While better insulation clearly means less energy consumption, what’s not clear is the level of protection and ventilation workers need so that they remain safe during the installation process.

Safety Has Not Been Asked to Prom

Categories: Green, Prevention Through Design

a shimmering mirrored ballGreen is sexy. It’s in vogue. It gets splashed on billboards and endorsed by celebrities. Safety on the other hand? Not so much. Over the past few years, the environmental movement has picked up steam and seeped into the national consciousness. Heck, even school kids can tell you what it means to be green—and they’ll probably even throw in that it’s cool, to boot. Occupational safety has remained a niche topic, the domain of industrial hygienists, regulators, and technical experts. The only school kids discussing it are working on advanced degrees. Let’s face it: Jack Johnson hasn’t written any songs about worker safety and health.

Green and safety are both related to behavior changes that take place at national, organizational, and personal levels. They share an impetus for action. Categorically, the motivations that move nations, organizations, and people to behave in environmentally friendly ways are the same as those that encourage safe work practices.

Going Green: Safe and Healthy Jobs

Categories: Green

Considerations for making green and sustainable jobs safe and healthy for workers

green jobs logoGreen jobs and sustainable practices are being used more and more in a wide range of industry sectors and products, from farms to office buildings. There are no official definitions for green jobs and sustainable work practices, so we define them broadly here as jobs and practices that help to improve the environment. For the purposes of this blog, such jobs could include (a) new types of jobs related to green technologies, processes, outcomes and products; (b) existing jobs where green practices and technologies are being introduced; and (c) existing jobs that create products viewed as important to the green economy. These types of jobs and practices all aim to reduce energy use and environmental impacts while preserving social and economic benefits. But do “green” and “sustainable” also mean safe and healthy for workers?

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