Category Archives: Home Page Photo Story

Pie Chart

Analysis of Green Chemistry publications over the past four years.

This figure is taken from Green chemistry: state of the art through an analysis of the literature by V. Dichiarante, D. Ravelli and A. Albini. Green Chemistry Letter and Reviews Vol. 3, No. 2, June 2010, 105-113.


As the label indicates, the pie chart shows a distribution of green chemistry topics as analyzed by articles produced in the year 2008. The majority of the pie chart (about 50%) is attributed to catalysis – or starting a reaction, under more favorable conditions that require less resources, whether those resources are heat, energy, reagents etc. Specifically, metal catalysts were the most cited catalysts used in many different reactions, specifically in those involving enzymes. Acids are also seen in this category, and according to the article, are used mainly in condensation reactions. The next largest section of the pie (about 40%) is attributed to media, or where/in what the reaction takes place. Many reactions require some liquid for a reaction to take place. Many of these liquids, especially in organic chemistry, are volatile or toxic compounds. As a result, most of the research done with green chemistry and the media of reactions use either no solvent, which allows for most reduction of waste. Water has also gained a prominent role in green chemistry literature as it is our universal solvent and usually can be recycled in a reaction. Ionic liquids are the third major media hit; they are liquids that have charged compounds in the solution to help guide a reaction. Ionic liquids are usually not volatile and are stored more easily compared to their organic counterparts. Finally, the last 10% of the pie chart goes to ‘new methods,’ or novel ways to do old reactions. Using microwaves to start and maintain a reaction is the most prominent method, followed by some research advances in photochemistry and ultrasounds, using light or sound respectively in reactions.



On Wednesday November 9, 2011 UVA Green Chemistry hosted AGC’s Mana Sassanpour for a lecture and discussion on “What is Green Chemistry?”

Mana gave an overview of green chemistry, Paul Anastas and John Warner’s 12 principles of green chemistry, followed by a description of Advancing Green Chemistry’s involvement in the field.

Mana: “The discussion that followed after the lecture was phenomenal! Almost everyone who attended the lecture asked a question. I had never seen such an involved group of students!”

We started off discussing endocrine disrupting chemicals, for example: bisphenol A (BPA). What exposure level is safe? Really large amounts are harmful, but so are really tiny amounts  – the correlation is not linear. We proceeded to discuss how we could test compounds for toxicity if the correlation is not linear. This led to a discussion on general methods for testing for toxicity, what the current standards are and how we could do better. We discussed the ethical concerns around animal testing and other tools.

The students were curious to find out what some of the common sources of BPA exposure are, and were surprised to find out that it is found in many disposable water bottles and plastic containers. A concerned student then asked for advice on how to avoid BPA. The response was: don’t use plastic food containers – but if you do, definitely do not microwave food in them because that allows the BPA and other contaminants to leach into your food. Store food in glass jars instead.

The ladies in the crowd then opened a discussion on cosmetics. Like many, they had never considered the chemicals in their beauty products. We talked about how many chapsticks and lip balms have oxybenzone in them – a component that acts as a sunscreen but is also a carcinogen. Most girls in the room immediately reached for their chapsticks to look at ingredients. A hand darted up to ask me “My chapstick has 6% oxybenzone – should I throw it away?” From this topic we went on to discuss how many sunscreen components do not degrade and go into our rivers and affect the reproductive anatomy of frogs and fish. This then led to how effects on amphibians predict effects on humans.

Needless to say, the conversation was great – filled with great facts, questions, and laughs!

chemistry classroom

AGC Goes to School


Advancing Green Chemistry has recently been invited to speak at several universities in the Charlottesville area. Most recently, AGC staff member, Mana Sassanpour, gave a presentation on the 12 principles of green chemistry to undergraduates at the University of Virginia.  In the presentation she showed examples that the students are familiar with from their own classes and lives.

For example, principle number 5: ‘Using safer solvents and reaction conditions’. UVA undergrads use DMSO and ether as solvents in many organic chemistry labs – often without ever knowing how harmful and toxic these substances are. By showing them that pharmaceuticals that used to use similar solvents are now using water as a replacement, Mana showed how to positively alter reaction conditions. In addition, her presentation opened students to an emerging field of chemistry: mechanochemistry. Mechanochemistry does not use solvents at all, but rather relies on a grinding mechanism to start and push a reaction. This field of chemistry has been applied to the production of pepto-bismol, a compound that everyone is familiar with, making the synthesis solvent-less. The students’ favorite part was the picture of the pepto-bismol ice-cream. Yumm.

Mana’s second lecture at UVA was directed towards the Chemistry Department. This lecture was followed up with a great question and answer session, really engaging the whole audience. For the most part, each participant asked a question, creating a really involved dialogue.

Up next, Mana hopes to lecture at Eastern Mennonite University!


gossip computer

Apply for 2013 Science Communication Fellowship

Open to post doctoral fellows and junior faculty with active research programs related to Green Chemistry. Advancing Green Chemistry in partnership with Environmental Health Sciences is offering a Science Communication Fellowship designed to teach and improve scientist’s communication and outreach skills early in their professional careers. Fellows practice writing, presenting and publishing accessible summaries of important new research results.

Nominations are being accepted now for the competitive, one-year fellowship that will further enhance the researcher’s media communication skills and offer a strong peer network. Fellowship training provides participants the tools with which to communicate Green Chemistry research to media, policy makers and the public. The program emphasizes US based media.

***Apply for the 2013 Science Communication Fellowship***

Meika with oil

The Chemistry of Soap: Interview with local soap artist Mieka

Hand Made Soap – “Made By Mieka”

Buying a bar of soap can elicit a lot of confusion; one may ask, “What are these six-syllabic compounds? Will its strong fragrance warrant unwanted attention within a 5-mile radius? Wait a minute, is this soap?”

In fact, there are many soap doppelgangers–synthetic, petroleum-based detergents.  Soap, per its legal definition, consists of an alkali salt of fatty acids, and the product is labeled, sold and represented solely as soap.  While searching for a handcrafted piece of soap at the local farmer’s market, I found “Made by Mieka” soap – alliteration and transparency all in one package.  While talking with Mieka, I learned about a family venture that builds upon Mieka’s Mediterranean roots through olive oil-based soap.

AGC: Hi Mieka, it’s interesting to see how olive oil has been used for hygienic purposes throughout history.  Apparently, ancient Romans had elaborate bathing complexes in which they incorporated olive oil for cleansing.  Can you elaborate on why you started making olive oil-based soaps?

Mieka: While I was writing my Master’s thesis in anthropology, I thought it would be nice to find something therapeutic and fun to do as a hobby, so I went to Michael’s and bought a soap-making kit.  It turned out to be this thing where you put it in the microwave and is instantly ready!  I thought: I can do better than that!

I began researching more about the soap-making process and incorporated it into my second thesis.  As part of my Mediterranean heritage, I have always loved olive oil, and you know, over there it’s used for practically anything, even treating benign wounds.

My family was instrumental in providing feedback for what ingredients worked and what amounts to use.  My “honey oats” soap came about because my friend’s daughter, Sahara, has Eczema, so her skin is very sensitive.  I combined oats and honey, and then went back and forth with Sahara to determine what worked best for her.  Since each customer has specific needs, my soaps have molded to their feedback.  From the packaging, which my sister designed, to my dad providing business advice and kids keeping me company at the market, each bar of soap has somebody behind it.

AGC: It’s wonderful that your family is so involved.  Can you tell us a bit more about the base ingredients? Sodium Hydroxide, an alkali generically known as lye, is a caustic agent, yet it is one of the principal ingredients for making soap.  Fragrances and synthetic dyes are also used in some handcrafted soaps – what is your approach to making soap?

Mieka: I start off with a pot of base oils: 95% olive oil and 5% coconut oil.  In another container, I slowly add the base (NaOH) to iced water.  Olive oil, in general, has natural anti-oxidants, but since extra virgin olive oil saponifies slowly, I also use pomace olive oil.  Saponification is essentially the process where NaOH neutralizes the fatty acids from the oils. This reaction produces soap, as well glycerin, a by-product.

Many commercial soap producers take out the glycerin, which has naturally moisturizing properties, and it is then sold to other companies, like lotion or facial cleanser producers.  But since the extra virgin olive oil saponifies slowly, I combine with pomace olive oil, which saponifies and traces quickly.  “Trace” occurs when the NaOH solution and fatty acids react.  You can literally see a trace, or swirl, surfacing the combined NaOH solution and oils.  As long as you use the right ratio of oil to lye, you will end up with a product that is neither oily nor caustic, but with is soapy, cleansing, and moisturizing.

These are the basic steps for all my soaps, and then I add other ingredients, such as honey and oats, or essential oils, like peppermint and lavender.  My rule of thumb is that if it benefits the skin, it’s game!  I don’t use perfumes, which are synthetic chemicals designed purely for fragrance.  Additives are used in commercial soap and detergents to treat dirt, so many suds form.  The olive oils I use naturally create some suds, but I don’t try to increase this visual effect.

To elaborate a bit more, the saponification process accelerates as soon as NaOH solution and fatty acids in oils combine, but then slows down as soap cures, or is left to harden within molds.  The curing process can take up to a month.  Like wine, soap only gets better with age, meaning that soap hardens.  However, the essential oils will dissipate so you cannot smell the scent or obtain their benefits.  Each base oil has its own personality so I’ve had quite a few experiments to determine precise temperature and timing of these reactions.  It’s truly amazing to make a batch and find out how my olive oil and lye water transform into soap before my eyes.  Who would have guessed that something so potent could create something so gentle?

AGC: Thanks for sharing the distinct steps of the soapmaking process; it is surprising to learn that you had to learn the chemistry behind soapmaking on your own!  It is also fascinating to learn how the chemistry of soap has been configured so it appeals more to our perception of cleanliness, e.g. creating greater amount of suds, rather than providing actual benefits to the skin.  What do you think we should consider when purchasing soap?

Mieka: I don’t think there is one kind of soap that is right for everyone, but of course, it is nice to try and avoid artificial chemicals and ingredients that are added purely for aesthetic purposes, like lather enhancers or dyes, which are actually bad for the skin.  That said, there are a lot of dynamics that people have to negotiate when choosing their soaps including skin type (oily, neutral, dry), aesthetic preferences (size, smell, shape), even personal politics (local, commercial) and — perhaps most importantly — price.  It would be nice to say that everyone should opt for soaps that use only natural ingredients, and avoid the harsh chemicals dumped into commercial soaps, but people have to make real world decisions that fit their own budget and family needs.

I wish I could offer my soaps at a price that competed with inexpensive commercial soaps, but I cannot.  Instead, I would urge those corporations that make the cheaper soaps to start making better products so that folks who cannot afford a $6 bar of soap can still wash up without having to douse themselves with yucky unnecessary chemicals.  I challenge those corporations to put companies such as mine out of business by producing chemical-free soaps at an affordable price.  Until then, I will continue to make soaps that clean well, and that are also wonderful for the skin . . . and I also will continue to find ways to lower my own prices so that hopefully I will eventually be able make them affordable enough for anyone who chooses a natural and healthful bar of soap.


AGC: Mieka, thanks for sharing your insight into the world of soap-making.  In addition to being a full-time anthropology professor at James Madison University, you manage to inspire behavioral change, one bar at a time.

Mieka’s soap can be found at the Charlottesville City Market.

Interview by Sarah Bolivar



The Chemistry of Art: an interview with Potter Ken Nagakui

I first met Ken Nagakui, an inconspicuous man, hunched over his notebook, pencil delicately but purposefully sketching shapes I could not make out.  As I studied this man’s concentration, I also noticed a plain clothed table in front him, bearing the weight of exquisite pottery I had not yet chanced to see.  The clay bodies were no smooth, sinuous shapes but rustic, with a mark of human imperfection.  They were a blend of ancient Japanese spirit combined with modern grit.  The following is a glimpse into the pottery business, a practice not so environmentally friendly by tradition, and a potter’s attempt to harmonize cost, aesthetics and environmental needs.

AGC: Hello Ken, can you please share how you became involved with clay pottery?

Ken: I had been painting for a long time before I started pottery –that was around 10 years ago.  I always liked pottery, but never thought I would make it a business until I saw the hand-built work of British potter, Jennifer Lee.  I was struck by the level of her work, its sophistication, technique and natural geological implications.  From there on, I took pottery classes in Alexandria, VA and, afterwards, moved to Nelson County.  Now I live and work in Charlottesville.

AGC: Through some research, I learned that it was not until around 3000 BC that the Mesopotamians began using a rudimentary version of the modern potter’s wheel.   Gradual improvements upon the turntable have sped up the process of coiling – or vertically layering coils to build the clay body – as well as have led to its mass production.   Can you describe your style and approach to pottery?

Ken: Hand-built and wood-fired stoneware is the shortest description of my work.  I do not use an electrically powered wheel, but roll pieces of clay to make coils and build the body.  In a way, this is very much traditional technique.  Next, I smoothen out the texture with my tools, some of which I fashion out of bamboo.  Stoneware, compared to earthenware, is vitrified to dense and hard rock-like quality.  Vitrification happens somewhere below or above 2,000 F, depending on contents of flux in the clay body.  When vitrified, the clay becomes dense or actual rock.  After it hardens, I add layers of glaze to the body and fire within my hand-built kiln.


AGC: How do you go about obtaining clay and glaze? Do you need to take safety precautions when mixing materials?


Ken: My first trial for this exploration was Virginian red clay.  By making slashes and screening impurities, such as stones and tree roots, the process to make clay from the soil is rather easy.  Since all clay shrinks about 12% to 14% from its original soft stage, I usually make clay pieces a bit larger than what the final product will be.   When fired at less than 2,000 F, red clay makes beautiful terracotta color pots.  I utilize this clay’s less plastic nature for the mugs to make crack-appearing surface and combine with better clay inside.


I tried several other local clays; some are from the Rivanna River, Blue Ridge Mountain, and a small creek in Harrisonburg and Lexington area.  Colors and textures range from purplish to somewhat greenish gray to deep brown to yellowish to white.  The most unusual one might be from the backyard vegetable garden where I currently live.  Its yellowish gray color means it is iron oxide, the most refined grain of clay.


So far, the only local ingredient for glaze has been wood ash from the wood stove, which uses varieties of wood, such as oak, maple, and hickory.  Although the main ingredients of glaze can be found in any soil, making glaze requires very fine particles and needs to be free from impurities.  It is practical to get most of glaze ingredients from suppliers.  Still, there are possibilities to try something new in glaze making.


One takes health precautions when mixing glaze because you start with a fine powder form of each chemical.  By using a dust mask, you can prevent or significantly reduce inhaling those particles.  I take environmental protection when discarding left-over glazes or when I wash tools and containers.  However, my usage of toxic oxides, such as cobalt and cadmium, is no more than regular painters’ usage of oils or watercolors.  Some substances are toxic by themselves, but when they melt into glaze, they become non-toxic.  For example, wood ash is considered toxic because of its strong caustic alkaline content, but when fired, it works as flux by lowering the melting point, and is no longer caustic in the glaze.


AGC: It seems that a certain amount of toxic minerals is utilized in pottery making.  There is currently a discourse over how to make pottery, as well as other industries, more environmentally friendly, but this is contested as unfeasible by some.  How do you go about building upon a craft rooted in tradition, while adapting to the realities of its harmful processes?  Would you ever say that pottery can be completely non-toxic?

Ken: When I first planned my own kiln, I wanted to utilize the woodland I happened to have, instead of using gas or electric power.  Where I live, it is easy to find dead tree branches to fuel the kiln.  Also, the kiln is based on a design called “fast fire wood kiln.”  This design allows me to fire within one day.  Comparably, traditional Japanese anagama kiln typically takes four to seven days to fire.  Of course, mine is a very small scale kiln and cannot fire large amount of pots.  What I am doing is a compromise between economically available methods, aesthetics and environmental concerns.


A friend and I have been discussing the possibility of a solar kiln.  My conclusion is it is possible, but not really practical.  If only a handful pieces will be used, then it is possible and can even be practical.  It’s very hard to imagine, however, that someone can build a solar kiln and fire 100 pieces at a time – unless “solar kiln” means, in fact, an electric kiln powered by solar panels.  I can imagine such kiln will be very expensive.


The U.S. Food and Drug Administration prohibits three elements in ceramic dinnerware: lead, barium and uranium.  Lead was widely used in ancient China, Persia and Japan because its toxicity was not known; lead is an effective flux at low temperatures but evaporates at high firing, so it is not even suited for my high firing technique.  I never use barium, though it is widely used for decorative purposes due to its brilliant blue pigment – it is, however, potentially very toxic.  If ever used for food ware, barium may easily leach into foods.  Some blue pigments contain cobalt, which can cause irritation.  Though it is mildly toxic, it is not prohibited by the FDA and is widely used.  I only use small amounts of cobalt, around 1% to 2%, because it is an effective colorant for lavender and solid blue.  Though I inevitably use some toxic metals, I make sure to seal them in the clay body by covering with clear glaze.

Ken’s pottery can be Found at Skylight Studios in Downtown Charlottesville.

Sarah Bolivar
Shenandoah National Park Trust Intern
Bachelor of Urban and Environmental Planning
University of Virginia  2011

Picture 1

Confessions of a Chemistry Graduate

As an entering first year at the University of Virginia, the only major concern I had was academic. I wanted to do well in my pre-med requirements. First, I needed to get into intro-level chemistry and biology labs. Once that was settled after many long battles, I then needed the good grades. Only after I graduated and got my first job at Advancing Green Chemistry did it dawn on me how my educational experience was anything but green.

As incoming freshmen, all of us were scared on our first day of chemistry lab. The two-minute lecture on the importance of waste disposal was and still is a blur to most of us; in fact I do not remember it at all. No one in my class realized the impacts of pouring concentrated hydrochloric acid down the drain. I mean, it looks like water, right? Looking back and remembering the times my classmates threw strong acid or base down the drain makes me shudder. I too am guilty of this. We didn’t want to wait in the long waste disposal line – we wanted the extra credit for finishing early.

It’s not our fault, and it’s not the TA’s fault. What I have learned is that there needs to be more emphasis on waste disposal; perhaps a mandatory lecture that discusses toxicology and waste disposal, or a quiz on the first day of lab will help emphasize the impacts of improper disposal. The only recollection I have of toxicology from my four years at UVa is from my inorganic chemistry class where my professor made it a point to expose us to toxicology through class lecture and problem sets. From the Green Chemistry and Engineering Conference I learned that most universities with a chemistry major do not require any form of toxicology to graduate, leading to chemists who inadvertently create or use hazardous compounds. Fortunately, chemists today are working to create a series of standards to combat this lack of education.

Then there was biology lab. My head still hurts when I think of spending hours in a room with all kinds of creatures immersed in formaldehyde. For a whole semester, we dissected all kinds of creepy crawlies and filled our nostrils with formaldehyde. I remember leaving lab with headaches with a desire to sleep for a very long time after those four-hour sessions. There must be a better and greener way to go about distributing and preserving these species. No one remembers all the dissections anyways – most of us want to be doctors, not starfish veterinarians. Speaker John Warner, co-founder of Green Chemistry, elaborated on this issue on Students Day at the Green Chemistry and Engineering Conference when he discussed how we do not always know the impact of chemicals until it’s too late. As chemists, we did not learn the toxicology; so, how are we supposed to apply it?

My sophomore year was worse. I had organic chemistry lab – the most dreaded class for most undergraduate chemistry majors. We produced hydrochloric acid in gas form, made brominated compounds, synthesized polymers etc. Before many of our labs, we were told to not breathe in products or touch them because many of our compounds or reactants are thought to cause cancer. Most students would go into lab and be scared of touching or breathing the supplies after being told that some compounds could take ten years off our lives. No one can deny that there are ethical issues surrounding the aforementioned. In addition, from the Green Chemistry and Engineering conference we learned all about how many polymers do not have efficient yields; in fact, my consistent lab yield result of 0% on all polymer synthesis can confirm that. Should we really be teaching inefficient lab methods to future chemists?

Finally, there was biochemistry lab in my senior year. Most compounds were biodegradable and non-toxic. What was not green about this experience was the waste of material such as pipette tips, vials, and other plastic containers. The university does not recycle these plastics and requires us to simply throw them away – even if they have bacterial residue on them. Establishing a recycling method for these products is a simple and easy way to green up the biochemistry lab system. Professor Al Matlack from the University of Delaware stresses how we need to be thinking about recycling and reusing at the most basic levels to make a greater overall impact.

My University, along with most others, needs to shape up. More emphasis needs to be put on developing greener teaching methods and laboratory techniques. Once established, these greener methods will become a trend. Now we just need some trendsetters.

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.


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.