Grant: Healthy Building Network

MPCA awarded the 2019 Green Chemistry & Engineering Summer Internship Grant to Healthy Building Network for a project expanding their Pharos and Data Commons tools.

Intern at Healthy Building NetworkThe Healthy Building Network (HBN) conducts research on the chemical safety and health of building materials. Much of its research is now available to the public through Pharos, a free (for basic uses) online resource that provides hazard, use, and exposure information on over 150,000 chemicals and over 140 different kinds of building products. Pharos helps product makers and purchasers assess and select alternatives to toxic substances. This provides a public health benefit while avoiding costs should a company put a substitute in place only to have to replace it in future.

Erica Chung was hired by HBN as a 2019 Masters of Public Health graduate in Environmental Health Sciences from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, with background in chemical safety, the built environment, and communications.

During summer 2019, she worked an all aspects of this project:

  • Trained new users of HBN tools and resources.
  • Completed interviews with manufacturers and other users of Pharos to identify higher-value upgrades to the tools.
  • In response to feedback in interviews, added a new data source (biomonitoring data) to the Pharos tool.
  • Compiled chemicals to populate six compound groups, helping to ensure hazardous chemicals are flagged.

HBN and MPCA are gratified at the success of the internship in bolstering widely used tools which support safer product chemistry. In turn, intern Erica expanded her experience and skillset, and accepted a full-time position with HBN as a health educator.

Says Michel Dedeo of HBN, "The MPCA internship was crucial in determining which HBN tools and resources are most valued by users in the building materials field, and strengthen the ability of Pharos to help users improve the built environment and public health."