Search for the information, build a resource, and then share it
There was yet again another interesting article in the New York Times that relates to toxicology and environment health. It seems that every day in this newspaper I read about something that relates to the subject matter of a National Library of Medicine (NLM) resource. Because I am one of quite a few trainers providing instruction on TOXNET, a suite of NLM resources covering toxicology and environmental health, I find something pertinent on a regular basis. The latest article of interest to me is in the February 2, 2012 New York Times Home Section titled “To Help Make Sure Your Home Is Healthy, an Ingredients List”.
The author, Fred A. Bernstein interviewed two architects who out of the need to be informed about building materials that are free of known and suspected carcinogens had to conduct their own research. Because they did not find the product information they needed for many of their potential building materials they ended up gathering the data and finally creating their own database. It is available to anyone at http://transparency.perkinswill.com/main
Upon consultation with one of my colleagues at Specialized Information Services (SIS) division of NLM she suggested that two TOXNET resources would provide similar information. Haz-Map® is an occupational toxicology database and HSDB® focuses on the toxicology of potentially hazardous chemicals. All of the NLM web resources are free.
For two architects with a focused need it is amazing to me what they did out of need. I laud them for their generosity in deciding to share their efforts with everyone.