Author Archives: Julie Jones

purple flower

Science Communication Fellowship – apply by March 1

The Science Communication Fellowship program trains future scientific leaders to engage with journalists and the public about rapidly evolving research associated with green chemistry/engineering (safer materials) and environmental health sciences.
The Fellowship is for early-career scientists (post doctoral researchers, recent assistant/associate professors…) seeking to communicate effectively about complex science, without “dumbing it down”, so that it may have more value and impact.
Now, more than ever, it is important that scientists help the public value science and its role in shaping our future.

Learn More

TiPED circle 200

TiPED – Design Safer Products

New publication:  A New System to Assess New Chemicals for Endocrine Disruption

    A groundbreaking new paper outlines a safety testing system that helps chemists design inherently safer chemicals and processes.       Resulting from a cross-disciplinary collaboration among scientists, the innovative “TiPED” testing system (Tiered Protocol for Endocrine  Disruption) provides information for making chemicals and consumer products safer. TiPED can be applied at different phases of the chemical design process, and can steer companies away from inadvertently creating harmful products, and thus avoid adding another BPA or DDT to commerce.

    The study, “Designing Endocrine Disruption Out of the Next Generation of Chemicals,” is online in the Royal Society of Chemistry journal Green Chemistry.

    The 23 authors are biologists, green chemists and others from North America and Europe who say that recent product recalls and bans reveal that neither product manufacturers nor the government have adequate tools for dealing with endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs).  EDCs are chemicals commonly used in consumer products that can mimic hormones and lead to a host of modern day health epidemics including cancers, learning disabilities and immune system disorders. The authors conclude that as our understanding of the threat to human health grows, the need for an effective testing strategy for endocrine disrupting chemicals becomes imperative.

Historically, chemists have aimed to make products that are effective and economical. Considering toxicity when designing new chemicals has not been their responsibility. This collaboration between fields expands the scope of both biologists and chemists to lead to a way to design safer chemicals.

Scientific understanding of endocrine disruption has developed rapidly over the past 2 decades, providing detailed, mechanistic insights into the inherent hazards of chemicals.  TiPED uses these insights to guide chemical design toward safer materials.  And as consumers are increasingly concerned about endocrine disruption (eg BPA, flame retardants) they are demanding products that do not contain EDCs, creating a market opportunity for companies that can take advantage of the new science.

There is a companion website to the paper, One can access the paper there and learn more about the TiPED system.


nalgenes bpa free

Beyond BPA: Could ‘BPA-Free’ Products Be Just as Unsafe?

By Elizabeth Grossman, Read the entire article at The Atlantic Monthly

Bisphenol A (BPA)—the once-obscure chemical building block of polycarbonate plastics, the epoxy resins that line many food and beverage cans, and of the coatings that make inks appear in most cash register receipts—is now almost a household word. But familiarity with the chemical has grown not because BPA is used in countless everyday products, but because of its potential adverse health effects, in particular its ability to act as an endocrine-disrupting chemical.

As a result, many major manufacturers of baby bottles, toddlers’ drinking cups, and reusable water bottles—among other products—have switched to “BPA-free” materials. A number of prominent retailers in the U.S. and abroad are doing the same. So the question arises: What are these BPA-free materials, and who’s making sure they’re safe?

Because the U.S. system of regulating chemicals relies primarily on information supplied by a material’s manufacturer, we know relatively little about these new plastics.

As scientific evidence of BPA’s biological activity grows, the search for alternatives becomes more imperative. While the polymers BPA creates are strong, they easily release the substance, which can get into our bodies not only through contact with BPA-laden products themselves but also through food, dust, and air. Potential adverse effects—which can occur at very low levels of exposure—include disrupted genetic signaling and hormone activity that can lead to diabetes; obesity; impaired reproductive, developmental, neurological, immune, and cardiovascular system function; and certain cancers. Of particular concern are the effects of BPA on infants and children. BPA eventually does break down, but the chemical is in so many products that it is virtually ubiquitous. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found BPA in more than 90 percent of the Americans it has tested.

The degree to which BPA poses a direct health risk continues to be debated. But China, Canada, Japan, the European Union, more than half a dozen U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and several other local and national governments have already restricted some uses of BPA, particularly in children’s products, and this year about 17 states are expected to introduce similar legislation. So even if BPA is less of a risk than many people think, demand for alternatives is increasing. While there are currently no federal restrictions on BPA use, both the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which has labeled BPA “a chemical of concern,” and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have issued statements of support for the use of BPA alternatives.

So what are these BPA-free materials and what do we know about them?

Glass, ceramics, and stainless steel are alternatives for some uses of polycarbonates, but plastics have obvious attractions. And avoiding many uses of BPA—can linings, paper—will require some kind of new polymer, or products will have to be redesigned to perform as desired without, for example, a plastic liner or coating. Companies are pursuing both strategies.

Then there are the new plastics on the market for BPA-free bottles, can liners, and other such products. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also has an effort underway through its Design for Environment program to examine the alternatives to the BPA-based thermal papers used in receipts, currency, and other similarly printed papers. But because the U.S. system of regulating chemicals relies primarily on information supplied by a material’s manufacturer, we know relatively little about these new plastics.

For example, among the more widely used plastics now marketed as “BPA-free” is Tritan copolyester, made by the Eastman Chemical Company. According to Eastman, sales of Tritan copolyester quadrupled between March of 2009 and March 2010. But currently the available information about this product’s chemistry comes from its manufacturer. The Eastman Chemical website offers Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for 23 different compounds sold under the Tritan copolyester name (each intended for different product applications). The MSDS sheets list no toxicity data and note that the compounds’ environmental effects have not been tested.

In May 2010, Eastman released test results showing several of the chemicals that make up Tritan copolyester to be free of both BPA and any endocrine-disrupting activity. But no other environmental or toxicity information or the final product’s other chemical ingredients is included.

John Hendel: Is BPA Actually Harmful?
John Hendel: New Evidence Against BPA
Marion Nestle: BPA: Partisanship in Action

The point is not to single out the Eastman Chemical Company or Tritan copolyester, which may be entirely environmentally benign, but to highlight the dilemma we’re in when it comes to assessing the safety of new materials. The same could be said of any number of new materials used in hundreds of consumer products. Under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), the U.S. law that regulates chemicals in commerce, it’s entirely permissible to launch a new material into high-volume production without disclosing its precise chemical identity or any information about its toxicity. This makes it impossible for the public to assess product safety independently of manufacturer claims. And currently, despite EPA and FDA policies that support “safe” alternatives to a chemical of concern like BPA, neither federal agency conducts safety testing of new materials destined for consumer products before they come on the market.

The National Institutes of Health is supporting research into the health effects of BPA with $30 million in grants. But there is no comparable research examining products marketed as BPA alternatives. The EPA’s Design for Environment effort is examining literature provided by manufacturers of alternate materials but is not currently conducting or commissioning any safety testing of its own. The EPA has outlined an “chemical action plan” that involves assessing the environmental and health impacts of bisphenol A and strategies to reduce exposure, but the only materials the agency can include in its Design for Environment program are the non-food contact products over which it has jurisdiction. Food contact products are regulated by the FDA, which has no program to develop or test materials.

What all this means is that while U.S. federal policy supports alternatives to BPA—and we’re using products containing these new materials at increasing volume—we actually know very little about them and lack a system that would provide independent assessment of new materials before they’re in our homes. With demand growing for safe plastics, it’s clear that we need a better and more proactive way of ensuring their safety—and ours.

Elizabeth Grossman

Elizabeth Grossman – Elizabeth Grossman’s work has appeared in Scientific American, The Washington Post, The Nation, Mother Jones, The Pump Handle, and other publications. Her books include Chasing Molecules and High Tech Trash.

Green Chemistry at Risk in Connecticut

April 15, 2011

An opportunity to advance green manufacturing and green chemistry in Connecticut is in jeopardy if a bill under consideration by the State Senate (SB 210) passes in its current form.

Last year, the legislature created the Chemical Innovations Institute as a vehicle for advancing research and education in the area of green chemistry.

Its goal is to offer education, training, and research assistance to Connecticut businesses on the availability and use of safe and effective alternatives to traditional chemicals that are highly regulated and/or understood to have health risks.

Clear intent

There was a clear intent at the time of its formation that the Institute should avoid public policy advocacy and instead serve as a resource to businesses and others interested in developments related to green chemistry.

Unfortunately, Section 2 of SB 210 is an attempt to push the Institute away from its scientific and educational mission in a manner that will allow advocacy groups narrowly focused on banning chemicals to use it as a basis for advancing their agenda at the Capitol.

The section specifically requires the Institute to annually submit a list of “chemicals of high toxic concern” to the Environment Committee.

Advocates and some legislators have expressed a desire to break with the committee’s current trend of voting to ban one chemical per year. Instead, they want to legislatively ban or regulate greater numbers of chemicals in Connecticut, beyond what is already required under state and federal laws.

Political hijack

The business community, whose support was critical in passage of the bill creating the Institute, is firmly opposed to Section 2 of SB 210 because it attempts to hijack the Institute for political purposes.

If this provision passes, it will compromise the critical trust and collaboration between the Institute and the regulated community.

The Institute is a promising, collaborative and market-driven approach that CBIA believes will foster the advancement of green chemistry research, education and utilization in Connecticut.

The legislature should not pass a bill that suffocates that promise. CBIA strongly urges the legislature to reject Section 2 of SB 210.

For more information, contact Eric Brown at 860.244.1926 or


Jazz Presentation of “Green Chemistry,” Friends University, KS

Come to the presentation of this exciting five movement piece, “Green Chemistry,” inspired by the international Green Chemistry movement. Performed by the D’Earth and Jeff Decker, University of Virginia.

Monday, November 21st

Pre-concert discussion lead by John Warner, Green Chemist and President of the Warner Babcock Institute

7:30 PM the music starts

Friends University Sebits Auditorium,Wichita, KS


Green Chemistry comprises five movements and is inspired by the international Green Chemistry movement, which encourages chemists to explore and address the environmental problems created by the many blessings of modern chemistry and by the ubiquity of chemicals in our modern world. The term “green chemistry” can also be taken as a double-entendre because the piece will explore human interaction, as well, especially as regards the “chemistry” between teachers and their students, where the learning goes both ways.

This concert is both interdisciplinary and interactive in a number of ways: between scientists and artists, between students and their professors, between current students and alumni, between the left brain and right, and between the environment and mankind.

Tickets for the concert on Monday, November 21st are $15 for Adults $12 for Students/Seniors. For more information call the Friends University Fine Arts ticket line at 316-295-5677.


Alternatives Wanted for these Toxic Characters

Mr. Softy and 5 other Toxic Characters are under investigation by the EPA.

Green Chemistry is our best hope for designing benign alternatives to these compounds. We can design products such that the characteristics we need (i.e. flexibility, fire-resistance, pest control, etc.) are built in without the human health costs.

Over the next year AGC will produce a series of articles assessing where green chemists are in replacing – or redesigning- these chemicals.

Check out the Toxic Characters website to learn more.