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Understanding Furniture Flammability and Human Health

June 28, 2021

Designers play an important role in protecting the health, safety and welfare of the clients they serve. Perhaps nowhere is this more evident than in the specification of upholstered furniture as it relates to flammability and occupant health.

In this episode, Dr. Marilyn Black of Underwriters Laboratories discusses a new tool for designers to better understand the relationship between these important design requirements.

Meet our guest:

Dr. Marilyn BlackAs a Public Health scientist, Dr. Black is a leader in the study of chemical and biological pollution and its impact on human health. She has a particular interest in reducing environmental exposure to children and safeguarding their health.

Dr. Black founded the GREENGUARD Environmental Institute, a nonprofit organization that oversees the International GREENGUARD Certification Programs for ensuring chemical safe products. GREENGUARD has been instrumental in driving the marketplace to safer construction materials, interior furnishings , and consumer products for healthy and sustainable buildings.

Dr. Black’s scientific experiences have included correlating lead exposure levels in children to reduced learning abilities; studying toxic materials in Apollo moon rocks; evaluating the impact of climate change on public health; identifying the sources of “sick building syndrome” and bringing solutions to schools, commercial buildings and homes; and improving the health of asthmatic children through various interventions, as recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Dr. Black is passionate about reducing environmental pollution for the betterment of societal well-being and the planet.

Following research and teaching at the joint MIT/Harvard School of Public Health/private environmental initiative and Georgia Institute of Technology, Dr. Black founded Air Quality Sciences, Inc. (AQS,) a testing and research leader focused on chemical and biological air pollution, including environmental chamber testing and its application in evaluating human health risks of indoor materials, furnishings, cleaners, and electronic equipment.

In 2011, AQS became UL Air Quality Sciences through acquisition by UL (Underwriters Laboratories) an international testing and certification organization. Dr. Black is currently leading UL’s not-for-profit organization’s Research Institute, Chemical Insights, whose mission is to deliver the scientific insight policymakers, healthcare providers, business leaders and consumers depend on to make informed environmental health decisions. 

With more than 35 years of experience, Dr. Black participates in numerous important national and international scientific organizational initiatives, National Academies, global research initiatives, and community outreach programs.

She has been recognized with a number of prestigious public service awards including the Ford Motor Company Public Service Changemaker Award, the National Keystone Center Leadership Award in Environment and was named Environmental Champion by the architectural and design community. She has presented and published extensively in the air quality and human health field with over 200 peer reviewed publications, numerous invited publications, and expert testimony before Congress.

She received a Ph.D. from the Georgia Institute of Technology, M.S. from the University of Florida, and B.S. from the University of Virginia, all in Chemistry. She also holds a professional certification in Artificial Intelligence: Implications for Business Strategy from the MIT Sloan School of Management.

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About the author
Robert Nieminen | Chief Content Director

Robert Nieminen is the Chief Content Director of i+s and BUILDINGS media brands, and an award-winning writer, editor and design industry veteran with more than 20 years of experience in the publishing industry.