Toxic Chemicals: Responding to Challenges and Opportunities

15 Pages Posted: 21 Oct 2008

See all articles by Andrea Larson

Andrea Larson

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper


The growing impact of toxic chemical use is a major issue corporations face in the 21st century. This note offers an overview of the effects of toxins on human health and the natural environment: Cancer, nervous system disorders caused by workplace exposure. Impaired endocrine, reproductive, and immune systems. Impeded physical and intellectual development. All are attributed to toxic exposure—sometimes even at very low levels. Toxic chemicals—ubiquitous in industrial processes and consumer products—represent both challenges and opportunities for business. One approach reduces a company's use of chemicals identified as problematic for human and ecosystem health. A second approach designs hazardous materials out of products or recaptures toxins in closed-loop cycles to be productively used again. Companies moving from a reactive stance to the redesign of products and processes not only reduce liability but differentiate their products and brands for competitive advantage.






In the early 1960s, U.S. scientist and writer Rachel Carson spoke about the risks of toxic chemicals:

We are subjecting whole populations to exposure to chemicals which animal experiments have proved to be extremely poisonous and in many cases cumulative in their effect. These exposures now begin at or before birth and—unless we change our methods—continue through the lifetime of those now living. No one knows what the results will be, because we have no previous experience to guide us.

. . .

Keywords: toxins, chemicals, hazardous materials, government regulation, sustainability, green chemistry, environment, human health, entrepreneurship, innovation, corporate responsibility good corporate citizen

Suggested Citation

Larson, Andrea, Toxic Chemicals: Responding to Challenges and Opportunities. Darden Case No. UVA-ENT-0043, Available at SSRN:

Andrea Larson (Contact Author)

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business ( email )

P.O. Box 6550
Charlottesville, VA 22906-6550
United States


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