Studies in Sustainability

The Studies in Sustainability series serves as a forum for discussion about the unique challenges and opportunities that exist in transforming chemistry into a tool for sustainability. The series, which highlights the intersecting roles played by emerging science, innovation, regulation, standards, and civil action, aims to publish dynamic new research examining the links between chemistry, sustainability, and pressing environmental and human health concerns.

Community-Based Science: A Strategy for Achieving Environmental Justice and Improving Environmental Knowledge 

by Gwen Ottinger | ViewDownload

Many residential areas are also home to industrial facilities that emit toxic chemicals and other forms of pollution. On issues of environmental quality and health in these communities, scientists and residents often talk past one another: residents’ claims about the harms of industry tend not to meet the standards of scientific study, while scientists’ studies tend not to address residents’ complaints. 

Community-based science—defined as studies conducted by residents and scientists working in collaboration—is seen as one possible solution. This paper outlines the characteristics that make community-based science effective and summarizes major challenges to creating successful scientist-community collaborations. It recommends ways to overcome those challenges, in large part by meeting obstacles at the structural or institutional level.


Emerging Nanotechnologies and Life-Cycle Regulation: An Investigation of Federal Regulatory Oversight from Nanomaterial Production to End of Life

by Christian Beaudrie | ViewDownload

Nanotechnologies promise many benefits for society, from modest improvements in consumer products to revolutionary changes in drug delivery and medical treatments. Over 1,000 nano-enabled products are currently on the market in the United States, and billions have been invested in future nanotechnologies. 

While nanotechnologies offer tremendous benefits for society, they may also pose significant risks. The same properties that enable novel applications may also lead to negative health and environmental consequences. These novel properties, coupled with a relative scarcity of information on nanomaterial hazards, make risk assessment and regulation a difficult task.

This paper investigates the U.S. federal regulations that apply to a nanomaterial along its life cycle, from initial creation to end-of-life. Drawing upon the growing literature that explores the regulatory challenges posed by nanomaterials, this analysis investigates which regulations are expected to apply at each life-cycle stage, and the ways that nanomaterials challenge the applicability or enforcement of these regulations.

Nanotechnology Regulation: Policies Proposed by Three Organizations for the Reform of the Toxic Substances Control Act

by Anna Lamprou | ViewDownload

Nanotechnology involves the act of manipulating matter at the molecular level. Having the capacity to work at this scale has generated a lot of excitement: researchers have imagined using nanotechnology for a wide range of applications in disparate fields, from medicine and cosmetics to food packaging and environmental filters. 

This surge of interest has attracted enormous investments toward development while simultaneously producing significant anxieties over the potential harmful effects of nanomaterials. In particular, critics are concerned that the properties exhibited by nanomaterials are not fully known and advocate for a framework that regulates production.

This paper discusses the current primary law governing nanotechnology in the United States and addresses its limitations as identified by three interest organizations. Also discussed are different policy recommendations that these organizations have suggested in regard to nanotechnology regulation.

Assessing Community Advisory Panels: A Case Study from Louisiana’s Industrial Corridor

by Gwen Ottinger | ViewDownloadPurchase

Community advisory panels, or CAPs, are a central feature of the US chemical industry’s public outreach efforts. CAPs have fostered dialogue between chemical facilities and neighboring communities nationwide; however, they are also frequently criticized for being merely public-relations vehicles for the chemical industry.

This paper investigates the performance of CAPs and highlights potential sources of public discontent with the dialogues. Drawing on observations of CAP meetings in St. Charles Parish, Louisiana, in the heart of the state’s Mississippi River Industrial Corridor, the paper assesses CAP performance with respect to four key goals: building relationships between chemical facilities and nearby communities, educating residents about plant operations, informing facility managers about community concerns, and facilitating improvements in environmental performance.

New Chemical Bodies: A Conversation on Human Biomonitoring and Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals

by Jody A. Roberts | ViewDownloadPurchase

This paper follows on the 2007 Gordon Cain Conference, “New Chemical Bodies: Biomonitoring, Body Burden, and the Uncertain Threat of Endocrine Disruptors” held at the Chemical Heritage Foundation in March 2007. The conference gathered together experts from academe, government, industry, and NGOs working in fields as diverse as public health, endocrinology, chemistry, sociology, history, and law in order to gather perspectives on current understandings of the ways human biomonitoring studies and research into the endocrine-disrupting effect of chemicals are changing the landscape and discourse of public health in the United States.

This paper presents an outline of the conference and harnesses the discussion that took place in order to offer the thoughts and suggestions made by participants to interested parties working in fields directly related to or impacted by research into these two emerging fields of scientific investigation.