Making Choices About Chemicals

« Back to interior design landing page

PaintChemical ingredients are the backbone of a host of innovative products and materials used in interior design. But some designers may have concerns about the possible health effects of some chemical ingredients used in everyday products.

It is important to remember that the mere presence of a chemical ingredient in a building interior material or product does not mean that the chemical will cause harm to building occupants. The level of risk posed by a chemical ingredient is not just determined by the physical properties of the chemical itself but depends on a range of factors, including how a person is exposed to the chemical, at what concentration and for how long.

When it comes to evaluating a chemical’s safety, scientists and health experts don’t just look at a chemical’s hazard profile; they also consider the degree to which people are exposed to the chemical, to determine actual risk:

  • Hazard refers to the inherent properties of a chemical substance that make it capable of causing harm to a person or the environment.
  • Exposure describes both the amount of, and the frequency with which, a chemical substance comes into contact with a person, group of people or the environment.
  • Risk is the possibility of a harm arising from a particular exposure to a chemical substance, under specific conditions

Chemical “red lists” are sometimes used to identify specific chemicals to reduce, phase out or eliminate from building products and materials. However, such approaches do not account for the amount of the chemical ingredient used in the product, the actual exposure to building occupants, or for the ultimate safety of the product.