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Welcome to PSR's Environmental Health Policy Institute, where we ask questions -- then we ask the experts to answer them. Join us as physicians, health professionals, and environmental health experts share their ideas, inspiration, and analysis about toxic chemicals and environmental health policy.


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How can innovations in technology and research reduce exposures to toxic chemicals?

Posted by Molly Rauch, MPH on December 15, 2010

Reducing the health risks from toxic chemicals in the environment is a complex project involving a multi-tiered approach. One approach is to address the consequences of chemical exposure after the fact, such as by advancing the treatments of illnesses that result from toxic chemical exposure. While this may have valuable health benefits, it is an inefficient way to reduce health risks. Another approach is to try to prevent exposure to toxic chemicals already in the environment, such as through abatement and clean-up of toxic waste dumps, or by urging consumers to use caution in the store aisles. Again, this is important to the individual citizen living next to a waste site, and the individual consumer at the check-out counter, but it is a relatively inefficient way to address the health effects of toxic chemical exposure. Yet another approach is to try to prevent toxic chemicals from gaining entry to the market, such as by limiting the introduction of toxic chemicals into commerce. This approach takes prevention to a more basic level. But what if we tried to address toxic chemicals at the most primary level of prevention – by preventing them from being invented? Environmental health experts and chemical engineers working on fundamental prevention have explored the ways in which technology and research can shepherd in a decidedly new chemical era, one that does not compromise human health. This month, our contributors explain more about how engineering technology and research on toxic chemicals may be harnessed to protect the public health.


The views expressed in these essays are those of their respective authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Physicians for Social Responsibility.

Responses: Evan Beach, Mark Dorfman, Steven G. Gilbert, Lin Kaatz Chary, Mark Rossi, Jennifer Sass


Cynthia said ..

My family worked in the Industrial Construction business for over 20 years. My husband died from lung cancer at 56 and my youngest daughter aquired EBV. At 24 she has had 5 GI surgeries. I have COPD and RA. THese diseases have one thing in common- the immune system. We were in Alma Michigan during the worst of their contamination-91-93. Never ending sadness/ C

November 12, 2011
Laurel C B Stranaghan said ..

Makes perfect sense to me also, Elaine Willis. then I recall why I have to write congress about Monsanto and the fracking chemicals needed to separae petroleum products from shale. Seems it boils down to ethics when it comes to choices about product develpment and profit potential. "Better living through Chemistry"? Not usually.

January 13, 2011
Elaine Willis said ..

This is so basically evident it is hard to believe we have to convince scientists, engineers and medical professionals that this is the right approach. I have no desire to be "cured of my sensitivity" to toxins. My desire is to prevent them from being invented - and failing that - from being exposed to those that exist. Logic seems to evade the masses.

December 22, 2010

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