Jul 27, 2011

What, exactly, is green chemistry?

The media bombards us with all sorts of scary news about toxic chemicals in the environment, giving chemistry somewhat of a bad rep. Green chemistry, however, is a practice that works to fight against toxicity.

The term "green chemistry" could sound unappealing to those who aren't scientists, but green chem is simply the design of chemical products and processes that reduce or eliminate the use and generation of hazardous waste.

John Warner (right) began his college years immersed in music with his band "The Elements" before he even came near a Periodic Table. Through a college chemistry course, he stumbled into a career in chemistry -- and ended up synthesizing over 2,500 compounds. Yet after all that work, he realized he still had no idea what made a chemical toxic. And today, no American Ph.D. chemistry programs require any demonstration of knowledge regarding toxicity or environmental impact.

This concern led Warner to write 12 Principles of Green Chemistry and found the Warner Babcock Institute. Green chemistry, says Warner, is not the birth of ethics; scientists have always been advocates of health. But green chem is a safer, prevention-focused approach to chemistry.

Want to know more about Dr Warner's presentation this week and the global issue of toxicity?  Excellent insights from Ed Alexander of Social Climate:  Environmentally Benign Products: a Green Chemistry Mentor Speaks.   Check it out.

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