Today, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) published a new report that finds enormous market potential for technologies that monitor individuals’ exposure to hazardous chemicals.
While chemicals make up the material backbone of products in commerce—from couches and carpets to the clothes we wear—and serve an important role in our economy, we know surprisingly little about what we’re exposed to on a daily basis and at what levels. This analysis provides some of the first quantitative evidence of consumer demand for technologies making such information available.
“Technologies that enable individuals to track their daily chemical exposures could fundamentally change the status quo,” said Lindsay McCormick, EDF Chemicals and Health Program Manager. “Widespread use could enable individuals, governments, businesses, healthcare providers, and others to take targeted actions to reduce harmful exposures and improve health.”
Recently, the market for personal health tracking devices has exploded. And by 2022, the global market for health self-monitoring technologies is projected to reach $71.9 billion. Personal chemical exposure monitors (PCEMs), a relatively recent entrant in the quickly expanding “monitored self” market, are a diverse group of emerging technologies that have the potential to provide individualized data on chemical exposures.
“We’ve seen a huge explosion in consumers interested in learning about their health. Consumers today want control,” said Janie Shelton, a scientist with 23andMe. “With genetic testing, they get compelling, actionable information they can take to a doctor to discuss screening. In the same way, monitoring for environmental chemical exposures could be very actionable.”
“I’m pretty convinced that, done well, a device that provides more information about the chemicals in our daily life will drive changes in consumer habits,” said Marty Mulvihill, CEO of venture capital firm Safer Made. “And if you can capture that change in consumer habits, there is your way to monetize it.”
“We’ve had a long-standing interest in understanding the indoor air quality of Google facilities. I can imagine a future where we would pair existing stationary air monitoring efforts with personal chemical exposure monitoring to help us even better optimize air quality within our office space,” said Lauren Riggs, Regional Facilities Manager, Google San Francisco.
Currently, investment in new PCEM ventures is not occurring at the same pace as other self-monitoring technologies. To accelerate and inform the efforts of PCEM technology developers, investors and other stakeholders, EDF conducted a study to assess consumer interest in PCEM technologies. The market analysis, conducted by Eastern Research Group, Inc., included a survey to characterize consumer willingness to pay for the devices and interviews with 16 experts from across the supply chain including representatives from Google, 23andMe, and Safer Made.
Key findings from the report include:
- The willingness to pay (WTP) survey found a clear market for PCEM devices among general consumers:
- The highest WTP value for a single surveyed hypothetical device was $459.
- Nearly 40 hypothetical devices had a WTP in the $100 to $300 range—a price range reflective of the actual price of other personal monitoring devices on the market today.
- Device features that consumers valued the most were 1) getting data on a large number of chemicals, 2) getting immediate results, and 3) receiving results that provide information on both level of exposure and whether such exposure is of concern.
- The consumer survey identified certain segments of the market more willing to:
- Purchase a device, including those who are younger, those who are college-educated, and those who self-reported having healthier habits.
- Pay more for devices with premium features, including women and those who self-reported as exposed to chemicals at work.
- Experts affirmed demand for PCEMs both among consumers and in the workplace monitoring sector, and identified future opportunities and solutions for existing and anticipated challenges, including reducing device cost, educating consumers, and targeting “early adopters” for an initial market.
“Our findings suggest that entrepreneurs who can bring a viable personal chemical monitoring product into commerce have an incredible opportunity to claim part of a large and rapidly growing health and wellness technology market,” said Aileen Nowlan, EDF+Business Senior Manager.
See the full report: edf.org/tracking-chemical-exposure
# # #
Environmental Defense Fund (edf.org), a leading international nonprofit organization, creates transformational solutions to the most serious environmental problems. EDF links science, economics, law and innovative private-sector partnerships. Connect with us on EDF Voices, Twitter and Facebook.