Habitable’s report, “Advancing Health and Equity through Better Building Products,” reveals the current state of building materials used, with nearly 70% of typical products in the categories analyzed containing or relying on the most hazardous chemicals.

The results, based on data for Minnesota affordable housing, are consistent with products used in other building types and geographic regions. The report highlights examples of leaders within and beyond Minnesota’s built environment who are already taking action toward safer material choices. It also provides guidance on how the real estate industry can begin working toward a healthier future by “stepping up from red-ranked products”—the most polluting and harmful throughout their life cycle based on Habitable’s research and Informed™ product guidance.

A path towards planetary health is more urgently needed now than ever, but our current materials economy creates rampant pollution, climate change, and growing inequity. Shifting from harmful practices to healthful solutions will require cross-sector partnerships, holistic thinking, and exciting new approaches that reduce the burden of industry on people and our planet. 

Watch Habitable’s special Earth Month webinar featuring leading global voices, including:

  • Dr. Bethanie Carney-Almroth
  • Dr. Veena Singla
  • Martha Lewis

Moderated by Gina Ciganik, CEO of Habitable

The Equitable and Just National Climate Platform is a collaborative effort between environmental justice and national environmental groups to develop inclusive and equitable national climate policy ideas and advocate for shared policy goals.

The Environmental Justice Health Alliance for Chemical Policy Reform is a national network of grassroots organizations advocating for safer chemicals and a pollution-free economy, focusing on communities disproportionately impacted by toxic chemicals and pollution.

The Planetary Health Alliance is a global consortium of over 400 organizations from 60+ countries dedicated to studying and addressing the effects of global environmental change on human health.

For over three decades, CEHN has been a leading advocate for evidence-based child-protective policy, preventive research, and education on children’s environmental health, collaborating with diverse stakeholders to promote a healthier future for children.

This podcast conversation explores the intersection of climate change and chemical pollution.

Highlighting opportunities to address both crises simultaneously while improving public health, equity, and economic vitality, featuring experts Dr. Elizabeth Sawin and Beverley Thorpe.

In this article, journalists investigate the American Chemistry Council’s promotion of chemical recycling, contrasting it with environmentalists’ concerns and highlighting issues found at Braven Environmental’s facility, suggesting that chemical recycling may not be as environmentally friendly or commercially viable as claimed.

This report explores the association between racially discriminatory housing practices from the 1930s and exposure to oil and gas wells, highlighting the impact of structural racism on environmental exposure disparities in urban areas.

Overwhelming evidence suggests our health and well-being are significantly impacted by the conditions in the environment where we are born, live, learn, work, and play, with some suggesting that our zip codes are better predictors of health than our genetic code.

Also referred to as social determinants of health , these conditions range from access to and quality of education, transport, and health care services to housing conditions and the toxics and pollutants we are exposed to in the neighborhoods we live in. 

While definitions may vary around what these conditions are and which should be prioritized, there is general consensus that: 

  • These conditions exist because of decision-making processes, policies, structures, and practices designed and implemented by humans;
  • These conditions create inequities in health, disproportionately impacting low-income families, families living with incomes below the federal poverty level, and people of color, and; 
  • Cross-sector collaboration is needed to deliver the highest standards of health for all, with special attention given to the needs of those who are at greatest risk.

In alignment with efforts tackling the root causes of health inequities, Healthy Building Network (HBN) entered into a partnership with United Renters for Justice (IX), a nonprofit working to transform the Minneapolis housing system, to reduce tenant exposures to toxic chemicals used in building products. Funded through an Environmental Assistance grant by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), this collaborative project prioritized toxic exposure reduction in areas designated to be of environmental justice (EJ) concern by the MPCA. EJ concern areas include tribal land and census tracts with higher concentrations of low-income residents and people of color – communities that are disproportionately impacted by toxic chemical exposures and other forms of pollution. 

This collaboration provided the unique opportunity to embrace the perspective of tenants in the co-creation of resources to help them make informed decisions about the products used in their housing units and common areas. Specifically, this meant designing resources that would leverage IX’s organization and mobilization skills as well as the structure of a recently established tenant cooperative, “A Sky Without Limits.” Also, it meant increasing information accessibility, for example, through the use of non-technical language and making the resources available in both English and Spanish.

Tenant organizations and other stakeholders can access HBN’s healthier building product guidance at informed.habitablefuture.org and by watching this 10-minute seminar video: 

Watch the Seminar (English)
Ver el Seminario (Español)

This high-level, 10-minute recording can be used to educate the general public (e.g., tenant meetings) about the importance of avoiding toxic products. It begins by breaking down myths and misconceptions around the perceived hazards and safety of natural and synthetic chemicals and discusses how toxic products impact individuals and families, especially children, along the lifecycle of products.

By empowering the people most affected by toxic chemical exposures to advocate for and create change in their living conditions, this project creates avenues for creating a safer environment for all. Anyone who influences product purchasing decisions – including manufacturers, building owners, managers, developers, architects, investors, policy makers, and consumers – has the power and responsibility to reduce health inequities for those using or exposed to those products every day. This includes residents, workers, installers, and the communities that surround the facilities where these materials are processed and disposed of. By making material health a priority in your decision-making processes, you’ll be joining efforts to tackle the root causes of health inequities in communities around the world. Visit informed.habitablefuture.org to learn how our building product guidance can help you make better material choices.