Archives for posts with tag: green chemistry

From Environmental Health News:

A shift to a bio-based raw material can reduce several chemical hazards associated with making one of the most popular plastics – polyurethanes – in production today, researchers report in the journal Green Chemistry. The new process means polyurethane plastic may be less hazardous to make and easier to break down in the environment.

Polyurethanes are a family of commodity plastics very commonly encountered in everyday life. They are widely used in industrial, automotive, engineering and medical applications and are found in a large range of products, including paints, foams, adhesives and coatings.

The new process for making polyurethanes focuses on one class called polycarbonate urethanes. These are found commercially in coatings and medical devices.

Almost all polyurethanes are prepared from chemicals called isocyanates. Most isocyanates are acutely toxic and pose a health risk to workers during manfacturing and to people who live in the communities surrounding the facilities.

The manufacturing of polyurethanes usually relies on toxic metal catalysts that can be released from the products into the environment. Research has shown that environmental exposures to these chemicals can lead to disruption of hormonal processes in animals.

More.

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From Daily Planet:

The evening of his two-year-old son’s funeral, John Warner looked back on his prolific career as a chemist, and had an epiphany of sorts.

“I had probably synthesized more molecules than anyone my age on the planet. I was at the top of my game as a synthetic organic chemist. But I asked myself, what if something I worked with, something that I made, caused my son’s birth defect and ultimate death?”

He realized that despite being a successful chemist, he had no idea what made a chemical toxic. That started him on a journey to discover just what it takes to create safer chemicals.

Considered in the science world to be one of the founding fathers of green chemistry, Warner was the featured speaker Friday at the “Adding Value Through Green Chemistry” conference . . . .

The event was intended to bring together leaders from the academic, nonprofit, government and business communities in discussion about the benefits and opportunities of green chemistry, which Warner says aims to “reduce or eliminate hazardous substances at the design stage.”

In order to be considered green chemistry, a substance must be safer than existing alternatives, be cost-effective, and ultimately, it has to work.

“People are not going to buy a cleaner that doesn’t clean just because it happens to be environmentally benign,” Warner said.

A spike in environmental regulations over the past 30 years demonstrates a growing public awareness of the need for safe chemical production. But a fundamental gap exists between what the public desires, and what scientists are capable of achieving, explained Warner.

Many professional chemists don’t know what makes a chemical toxic. That’s because universities do not require chemistry majors to demonstrate knowledge of toxicity and environmental impact in order to graduate – that is, not yet.

“Communities and states that can figure this out and create a workforce capable of supplying this unmet need, this missing element, have an opportunity to change the game,” said Warner.

More.

From Living On Earth (portions of an interesting radio discussion of the “new curriculum in chemistry”):

GELLERMAN: . . . . In laboratories across the country chemists are trying to come up with new formulas to make safer products. And students at many universities are learning how to do it. It’s called green chemistry. Living On Earth’s Ingrid Lobet reports on the changes at one of the nation’s most influential chemistry departments: the University of California, Berkeley.

WILSON: Our field has typically been about measuring the extent of the damage, and I became interested in the next level of question which was: Why are we creating these occupational and environmental health hazards in the first place? Don’t we have the have the talent and the resources to create safer chemicals and safer products from the beginning?

LOBET: These questions led Wilson to the field of green chemistry. Established by Paul Anastas and John Warner in the 1990s, it’s the emerging field that looks at where chemicals end up in people and the environment, and advocates safer substances. Next, Wilson began talking with the university chemistry department.

WILSON: What we found here at the Berkeley campus was that chemistry education hadn’t really changed much in the last 30-40 years.

LOBET: Not too long after, Wilson met a new chemistry grad student who’d arrived at the university. Marty Mulvihill and Mike Wilson had something in common—call it a public interest approach.

MULVIHILL: While I was here, it was really important to me not only that I do research, but that I reach out to my community and think about the ways that chemists specifically could influence society. Like, we use a lot of resources from society—chemistry is a very resource intensive thing—like, how do we give back?

LOBET: With this kind of community orientation it was natural that the first thing Mulvihill did when he got to Berkeley was start organizing other chemistry grad students.

MULVIHILL: The name of that group was actually Chemists for Peace, which turned out to be far too controversial for a place like Berkeley. I mean, there’s like that perception that Berkeley is an activist-oriented thing, but when you look at chemistry, anything that even appears political is not widely accepted.

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WILSON: Our field has typically been about measuring the extent of the damage, and I became interested in the next level of question which was: Why are we creating these occupational and environmental health hazards in the first place? Don’t we have the have the talent and the resources to create safer chemicals and safer products from the beginning?

LOBET: These questions led Wilson to the field of green chemistry. Established by Paul Anastas and John Warner in the 1990s, it’s the emerging field that looks at where chemicals end up in people and the environment, and advocates safer substances. Next, Wilson began talking with the university chemistry department.

WILSON: What we found here at the Berkeley campus was that chemistry education hadn’t really changed much in the last 30-40 years.

LOBET: Not too long after, Wilson met a new chemistry grad student who’d arrived at the university. Marty Mulvihill and Mike Wilson had something in common—call it a public interest approach.

MULVIHILL: While I was here, it was really important to me not only that I do research, but that I reach out to my community and think about the ways that chemists specifically could influence society. Like, we use a lot of resources from society—chemistry is a very resource intensive thing—like, how do we give back?

LOBET: With this kind of community orientation it was natural that the first thing Mulvihill did when he got to Berkeley was start organizing other chemistry grad students.

MULVIHILL: The name of that group was actually Chemists for Peace, which turned out to be far too controversial for a place like Berkeley. I mean, there’s like that perception that Berkeley is an activist-oriented thing, but when you look at chemistry, anything that even appears political is not widely accepted.

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More . . .

From IATPvideo:

Dr. John Peterson Myers, CEO of Environmental Health Sciences and co-author of Our Stolen Future, talks about environmental chemicals and public health.

In my recent interview of Drs. Carlos Sonnenschein and Ana Soto, I asked them about how they thought chemicals and the chemical industry should be regulated to better protect human health. Here is the second of two portions of that exchange (duration: 14:27).

Drs. Sonnenschein and Soto respond to the following prompts:

  1. How can a consumer live safely in a toxic environment? 00:40
  2. Can you give me an example of a specific regulation that you would like to see enacted? 03:50
  3. Do we need to change our regulatory mindset in this country? 04:20
  4. What do you mean by the “white paper” approach to regulating chemical?07:50
  5. What is green chemistry? 10:20
  6. What are the impediments to effective regulation, and how is that we overcome them? 11:00

The full, edited interview is now available on the Upstream Website.

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