Chemical Insights Research Institute

At the Chemical Insights Research Institute (CIRI), we’re at the forefront of understanding how chemical exposures affect human health, and how to reduce risks.

Father and son

Over 140,000 chemicals are used to make products we use every day, but we only understand the health impact of approximately five percent.

For example, in the air we breathe inside our homes and buildings, there can be anywhere from 300 to 1,000 different volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) at any one time. Many of these are known to be carcinogens (cause cancer) or can be reproductive and neurodevelopment toxins, especially affecting our most vulnerable populations. Children are most sensitive to their effects because they breathe at a fast rate and have small bodies, hence they get higher doses of the chemicals than adults. CIRI is taking numerous research steps to define these chemical risks and understand how they directly affect the human body and ultimately result in illness and disease.


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exposure chambers measure chemical emissions

Specially designed state-of-the-art exposure chambers allow us to measure the emissions of chemicals resulting from product use or specific activities down to the parts per trillion (PPT) levels.

CIRI can accurately identify the chemicals, measure their levels, and then use unique human exposure models to predict health risks. 

Studies are underway on the emissions released by operating 3D printers. Based on research results that showed this to be a health risk from exposure to very fine particles and many VOCs such as formaldehyde and styrene, CIRI engaged key stakeholders in the creation of a National Standard, CAN/ANSI/UL2904 to limit the number of hazardous VOCs that could be released from operating printers. Ongoing research is focusing on the effectiveness of filtration systems in capturing chemical and particle emissions before they disperse into the air. 


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Glass chamber with smoking vape

Another of our chemical projects is characterizing the vape resulting from the use of electronic cigarette devices.

Using a specialized vaping robot in the exposure chambers, more than 100 different VOCs have been identified with indication that over 75 percent are likely depositing in the lungs.  


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fitness group in class

CIRI also studies how people are exposed to per- and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS) chemicals, commonly known as "forever chemicals," from consumer and occupational textiles.

PFAS chemicals are frequently added to clothing and interior furnishing materials to make them water-, soil-, and stain-resistant. They are used so much that they are found nearly everywhere in our environment. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently found that approximately 97 percent of the U.S. population has PFAS in their blood systems.

These “forever chemicals" do not easily break down in the environment or in our bodies, and long-term exposure to PFAS chemicals may result in increased risks of prostate, kidney and testicular cancer. Exposure to children can result in developmental effects, low birth rates, and behavioral changes. 

To address this problem, CIRI is studying how people can get exposed to PFAS chemicals. Are they in the air we breathe, the food and water we ingest, or do they migrate from the textiles we use through our skin and into our bodies? Scientific understanding of these exposure routes allows us to define the health risks and explore ways we can reduce exposure. CIRI’s research supports a healthier and more sustainable future for people and the planet. 


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Chemical Insights contributes to the protection of human health and well-being by conducting scientific research. Our study approach identifies sources of environmental pollutants, determines human exposure levels, evaluates toxicity and health risks, and studies solutions for reduction. We share our knowledge to manage and mitigate sources and adverse impacts of environmental pollution on human health.

Key research topics include Aerosol Emissions from 3D Printing, Flame Retardant Exposure, Furniture Flammability, Chemical Exposure Routes, Global Air Pollution Sources and Reduction, e-Cigarette and Vaping Aerosol Toxicity, and Wildfire Combustion.

With this research in hand, we convene diverse stakeholders to discuss, and at times debate, science and strategies through worldwide panels and conferences, which pave the way for additional research, improved practices, alternative product design, new legislation, and regulatory changes and education to enable safer products and healthier environments.



Follow us as we provide insight to our current projects, research technologies, reports, educational programming, and glimpses into our future endeavors. Read our latest press releases and newsletters on environmental pollutant exposure and human health.

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We seek to conduct and share our science research for the greater good—making the world a safer, healthier place. Find out more about the scientific conferences and workshops where our research will be presented, learn about our upcoming workshops and summits, and follow our latest research.