Tag Archives: investment in green chemistry

Researchers close in on making a natural malaria drug.

Westfall, PJ, DJ Pitera, JR Lenihan, D Eng, FX Woolard, R Regentin, T Horning, H Tsuruta, DJ Melis, A Owens, S Fickes, D Diola, KR Benjamin, JD Keasling, MD Leavell, DJ McPhee, NS Renninger, JD Newman and CJ Paddon. 2012. Production of amorphadiene in yeast, and its conversion to dihydroartemisinic acid, precursor to the antimalarial agent artemisinin. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1110740109.

Synopsis by Jean-Philip Lumb

A new approach to making the natural malaria drug artemisinin will increase supply and avoid the chemical steps now used to extract the drug from plants. The drug is meant to replace medicines that no longer control the malaria parasite spread by mosquitoes.

An affordable treatment for malaria is closer thanks to a process using both biology and chemistry to make artemisinin – an effective drug currently extracted from plants.

The method bypasses plants as the source of the drug. Instead, modified yeast change sugar into an advanced chemical that can be converted into artemisinin. Skirting plants decreases the cost, increases supply and avoids chemical extractions. A team of industrial and academic researchers in Berkeley, Calif., developed the biochemical route to the drug.

The process provides an alternative to traditional extractive procedures and highlights the increasing use of biotechnology in greener drug manufacturing.

Globally, the mosquito-borne infectious disease claims nearly 1 million lives per year. Health organizations estimate that 300 – 500 million people are infected on an annual basis, a population based primarily of children in Africa and Asia.

New medicines are needed because the current drugs do not work as well as they once did and controlling mosquitoes with insecticides – such as DDT – can harm the environment and human health.

Artemisinin is a desirable substitute to the widely used chloroquine-based antimalarial drugs. The Plasmodium parasite that causes malaria has become resistant to these traditional drugs.

While faster acting and more effective, artemisinin is expensive and supplies are often limited. Artemisinin is currently extracted from plants. Unfortunately, the extraction makes large-scale production too costly for countries where the drug is needed most. The methods also employ volatile organic solvents that levy a heavy environmental toll.

To overcome the current limitations in supply, a consortium of industry and academic researchers in California developed a new strain of yeast that can convert glucose into an artemisinin precursor. Standard organic chemistry practices are used for the remaining steps of the drug’s synthesis.

The combined biotechnology/synthetic chemistry approach promises to be an effective alternative to the extraction techniques currently in use. The cost is estimated as low as 300 million cures at 50 cents a treatment. A recent press-release, issued on the Amyris website, announced a partnership between Amyris, The Institute for OneWorld Health and Sanofi-Aventis to make doses of artemisinin available later this year.

Read more science at Environmental Health News.

green test tubes blue flask

EPA cancels $20-million green chemistry grant program, gives no explanation

In an announcement that stunned scientists, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has cancelled grant applications for what was supposed to be a $20-million, four-year green chemistry program. The mysterious cancellation comes less than three weeks before the deadline for the proposals. The grants, which were supposed to fund four new centers, would have been a major new source of funding for green chemistry, a field that seeks to design environmentally friendly chemicals and processes that can replace toxic substances. The requests for proposals may be reissued, the EPA said. But the program’s sudden halt and uncertain future — and lack of explanation — have left scientists disheartened. “My reaction is shock that it happened and total dismay that what appeared to be a novel program was cancelled without warning or explanation,” said Eric Beckman, a chemical engineer at the University of Pittsburgh.

Joshua Vaughn/flickr
Green chemistry’s aim is to design environmentally friendly chemicals and processes that can replace toxic substances currently in use.

By Brett Israel
Senior Editor and Staff Writer
Environmental Health News
April 10, 2012
In an announcement that stunned scientists, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has cancelled grant applications for what was supposed to be a $20-million, four-year green chemistry program.

The mysterious cancellation, announced on Friday, came less than three weeks before the April 25 deadline for the grant proposals.

The federal grants, which were supposed to fund four new academic centers, would have been a major new source of funding for green chemistry, a field that seeks to design environmentally friendly chemicals and processes that can replace toxic substances.

The requests for proposals may be reissued, the EPA said Monday. But the program’s sudden halt and uncertain future – and lack of explanation – have left scientists disheartened. Lab researchers had worked for months on their proposals and scientists now fear their hard work will be wasted.

“My reaction is shock that it happened and total dismay that what appeared to be a novel program was cancelled without warning or explanation,” said Eric Beckman, a chemical engineer at the University of Pittsburgh who was working on a proposal.

Terry Collins, a green chemist at Carnegie Mellon University and a pioneer in the field, said the announcement “stunned me.” Collins was on a team of green chemists and other environmental scientists that had been working for months to put together a funding proposal. West Coast institutions, including University of California, Berkeley, also were developing a proposal.

Beckman said he’d never seen such a thing happen before – a government agency pulling the plug on a request for proposals so close to its deadline – in his more than 20 years in academia.

Eric Beckman, a University of Pittsburgh chemical engineer, said he’d never seen such a thing happen before – a government agency pulling the plug on a request for proposals so close to its deadline – in his more than 20 years in academia.The $20 million in funding would be “one of the most significant sources of dedicated support for green chemistry so it is a blow to the community that the call for applications was cancelled without explanation,” said Evan Beach, a green chemist at Yale University. “Everybody was in the home stretch on writing. The preparations took several months.”

The EPA offered no reason for the last-minute cancellation.

 “Given the new and emerging research areas…EPA determined that it was necessary to further explore these research areas and also consider changes to its usual review process,” Kelly Widener, assistant director for research communications at EPA’s National Center for Environmental Research, said in an email response to Environmental Health News.
Widener, who declined to elaborate, said the EPA anticipates re-issuing its requests for proposals in June or July.
Green chemistry, according to the EPA, is “the design of chemical products and processes that reduce or eliminate the use or generation of hazardous substances…across the life cycle of a chemical product, including its design, manufacture, and use.”
The new program – to create Centers for Material Life Cycle Safety and Centers for Sustainable Molecular Design – was announced in late December as a part of the EPA’s Science to Achieve Results (STAR) program.
The green chemistry centers were to draw together scientists from wide-ranging disciplines, including engineering, chemistry, social science and physics, to develop “improved methods for the design of next generation chemicals,” the EPA said when it announced the available funding.
“This holistic approach to design, which considers all the stages of a material’s life cycle, provides an opportunity to produce materials which minimize, and preferably eliminate, any associated potential environmental and human health impacts that may occur during the life cycle,” the original request for proposals said
That funding for such a promising area of science was halted without explanation at the last minute has many researchers scratching their heads.
“For the EPA to treat so wastefully the field that holds most of the keys to a good future for the relationships between chemical products and processes and the environment and health is mystifying to say the least,” Collins said. Read more science at Environmental Health News.

US EPA 2013 Budget and Chemicals Issues.

Elizabeth Grossman has published a new piece in Chemical Watch, entitled “Chemicals fare well in US EPA’s 2013 budget proposals“, which reviews the proposed 2013 US EPA budget on chemicals-related issues.

Specifically related to green chemistry, she finds that,

“The budget allots $13.9m for chemical information collection, management and transparency; $14.9m for screening and assessing chemical risks; and $24.6m for reducing chemical risks. EPA says that in 2013 “the toxics programme will maintain its ‘zero tolerance’ goal in preventing the introduction of unsafe new chemicals into commerce” but notes that thousands of chemicals already in commerce remain unassessed.

The budget’s science and research priorities include an increase of $4.1m in funding for “sustainable molecular design of chemicals” to develop inherently safer processes and products. The budget also requests $20.9m for the EPA’s Pollution Prevention Program which encourages the use of “greener” chemicals, technologies, processes and products, among them the Design for Environment, Environmental Preferable Purchasing, Green Chemistry and Green Engineering programmes.”

For the full piece please go here.

See the EPA Budget webpage


Shake it up: A greener method for upset tummy medicine.

André, V, A Hardeman, I Halasz, RS Stein, GJ Jackson, DG Reid, MJ Duer, C Curfs, MT Duarte and T Friščić. 2011. Mechanosynthesis of the metallodrug bismuth subsalicylate from Bi2O3 and structure of bismuth salicylate without auxiliary organic ligands. Angewandte Chemie International Edition http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/anie.201103171.

Synopsis by: Audrey Moores and Wendy Hessler, Dec 15, 2011

This sounds like a kitchen recipe: mix A with B, add a few drops of water, a pinch of salt and then shake. Except, researchers followed these simple directions in a laboratory to make the main ingredient in the popular stomach and intestinal remedy sold under the brand name Pepto-Bismol.

To make the drug this new way, they mixed the two main dry ingredients then added the rest and vigorously shook the paste in a special shaker. The breakthrough – an important step forward in the emerging field of mechanochemistry – uses less energy and solvent than the current way the drug is produced. And it creates no harmful by-products.

This discovery is showing that using simpler chemistry methods can improve processes as complex as drug synthesis and also aids understanding of how drugs work.



The image of chemistry is intimately linked with the idea of mixing together liquids. But a new field of chemistry – namely mechanochemistry – proposes to make molecules by mixing solids without adding copious amounts of liquid solvents.

In mechanochemistry, the reagents are loaded into a small cylinder with two metal or ceramic balls. This cylinder is shaken very fast to allow proper mixing. The advantages of this technique are multiple. The products are collected pure, the reactions proceed faster than in solution, and less energy is required to perform the mixing compared to what is needed to heat large amount of solvents.

Variations of this method include addition of a few drops of solvent or a very small amount of salts. This permits the use of slower shaking, thus reducing energy use even more.

Pepto-Bismol is a popular stomach and intestinal relief medication. It is composed of a metal called bismuth and aspirine. To be active, bismuth and aspirine have to form chemical bonds together.

Currently, the drug is made by mixing water solutions of these two ingredients. After reacting, the excess water is removed, which costs energy, time and money. Previous efforts to find simpler, less wasteful, mechanical ways to manufacture the compounds have failed.

This bismuth-aspirin drug has been used for more than a century, yet chemists do not know exactly what its chemical structure looks like when the active ingredients combine. This has limited understanding of how the drug functions in the stomach.


What did they do?

A group of researchers from Cambridge, United Kingdom, wanted to improve the existing synthesis of a pharmaceutical group of compounds called bismuth salicylates. The most well-known variety is bismuth subsalicylate, the active ingredient in Pepto-Bismol, an over-the-counter medicine used to treat nausea, heartburn, diarrhea and other stomach and intestinal symptoms.

They were looking for a way to make the desired bismuth subsalicylate using a method that was more energy efficient, faster, yielded fewer harmful byproducts and used less solvent than the current way to make the drug.

Instead of first dissolving the two key ingredients – bismuth oxide and aspirine – in liquid solvents and then mixing the two fluids together, the researchers chose a simpler method. They mixed the dry powders in a mechanochemical mill.

It was not the first attempt to produce this drug in such a simple fashion, but past trials were met with little success. This time, the research group added a few drops of water and a pinch of salt. During ingredient shaking, the presence of the water and the salt enabled the formation of the drug in very high yields.

They tested different ratios of bismuth oxide and aspirine, different volumes of water and a variety of salts. After each attempt, they identified the products produced during the reaction.


What did they find?

The researchers first added a few drops of water to the bismuth oxide and aspirine powders. This helped the reaction and products did form, but none were the active ingredient bismuth subsalicylate they were looking for.

They redid the experiment adding a little bit of salt with the water to the powders. A series of different salts were tested. They discovered that potassium nitrate and ammonium nitrate were very efficient in promoting the reaction and afforded the desired drug in high yields.

The reason why the addition of water and salt is required is not completely understood, but the researchers believe that it helps the molecules organize and “find their place” in the final molecular architecture.


What does it mean?

By testing a new method of mixing ingredients, this group of chemists was able to produce a commercially important drug using less energy and solvent. They also are the first to identify the chemical structure of a compound similar to bismuth subsalicylate.

The discovery of this new synthetic method is important because it opens the way toward more energy efficient and less polluting drug fabrication. The chemists only had to mix two essential ingredients with tiny amounts of water and nitrate salts – less than 5 percent. Interestingly, these salts do not seem to mix with the final product, which allows for easy separation in the end. Also, this new process generates only water as a by-product. It is thus compatible with drug synthesis.

The secondary discovery of the compound’s chemical structure may seem surprising. Although it has been known for more than a century that the ingredient in Pepto-Bismol is active, the actual way it works is still unclear. In fact, no chemist had isolated and identified the three-dimension chemical structure of any bismuth salicylates. It is a little bit as if engineers were trying to understand the way an engine works without having the knowledge of the shape of its mechanical pieces.

In this study, the researchers were able to decipher the structure of a compound very close to the ingredient bismuth subsalicylate found in over-the-counter medicine. This is a vital step towards understanding the biological activity of this much-used drug. This discovery was possible because the method afforded an unusually pure product, another common advantage of mechanochemistry.

The use of mechanochemistry at a production scale has been demonstrated, for example, on the synthesis of an anti-inflammatory drug/carrier composite. This new discovery may thus lead to a more optimal production of Pepto-Bismol and other medicines. Read more science at Environmental Health News.

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.

Which companies are banishing BPA in food packaging?


Mother Nature Network (mnn.com)

Our government may not have done much to ban or regulate the use of BPA in our food packaging, but apparently, some companies are taking the initiative to banish BPA.

These companies aren’t just the mom-and-pop home kitchen jam shops or smaller eco-friendly food companies. Biggies like Hain Celestial, ConAgra, and H.J. Heinz all got A’s for their leadership in getting BPA out of their packaging.

Who awarded these grades? That would be Green Century Capital Management, an investment advisory firm that administrates the Green Century Funds, a family of environmentally responsible mutual funds. Green Century recently released a report, Seeking Safer Packaging (www.greencentury.com/bpareport2010.pdf), that grades companies on their BPA-related actions and initiatives.

But before you open that can of Chef Boyardee (owned by ConAgra), be aware that an A grade doesn’t mean the company’s products are BPA-free. To get an A, companies only need to have started phasing BPA out of SOME of their packaging while also committing to a concrete timeline for phasing out all the BPA.

Do you think Green Century graded on a curve? Perhaps the A’s were generous, but keep in mind that most of the companies Green Century graded were total flunkies. Coca-Cola, Del Monte, Kraft, Unilever, Kroger, Safeway, Supervalu and Wal-Mart all scored F’s. According to Green Century’s report, “Most of these companies are exploring substitutes for BPA to some degree but do not commit to phasing out the chemical, are not funding the exploration of substitutes, and fail to sufficiently disclose information about how they are addressing consumer concern on the issue.”

Somewhat surprising may be Whole Foods’ D+ grade for its private label brand – the same grade as less green-tinted companies Kellogg and Dean’s Foods. However, that D+ still put Whole Foods in the top spot among retailers! The report says Whole Foods has “good transparency” on its BPA policies – “but has not demonstrated that it is actively testing any BPA-free options for its private-label cans despite a commitment to eliminate the chemical from packaging.”

I have my Roth IRA with Green Century – though ashamed to admit I haven’t contributed any green to it in years! I am, however, proud that this BPA report doesn’t worry me as much as it would have several years ago – because I’ve since pretty much phased out canned food from my life.

And Green Century: As an account holder, I’d like to request that you look into another BPA issue next: BPA on cash register receipts.

If you’re wondering about the methodology behind the grading system, there’s an explanation on page 13 from the link above, if you’re interested.

Siel Ju is a Hollywood socialite with a Ph.D., who blogs about health, beauty and life at www.mnn.com/featured-blogs/greenliving.

Related Content

Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/11/08/1914829/which-companies-are-banishing.html#ixzz14tp6e6sW

Could estimating environmental risk soon be a click away?

Papa, E and P Gramatica. 2010. QSPR as a support for the EU REACH regulation and rational design of environmentally safer chemicals: PBT identification from molecular structure. Green Chemistry 12:836-843.

Synopsis by Adelina Voutchkova, Sep 16, 2010

A new computer model may be a significant step forward in predicting the cumulative environmental risk of new and existing chemicals, say researchers who developed it. The model uses a compound’s chemical structure to classify its toxicity, persistence and bioaccumulation – three major traits regulators use to flag a chemical’s potential environmental hazards.

The benefits are significant: working computer models could minimize the need for animal testing, identify highly hazardous compounds already in use and tag the most harmful ones before they are manufactured or introduced to the market.

Globally, thousands of new chemicals are produced each year. The United States alone introduces between 700 and 800. New regulations – such as the Toxic Substances Control Act (ToSCA) in the United States and the Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) in Europe – will require toxicity and persistence testing for all new chemicals. However, given the high cost of standard animal toxicity testing, companies may be unable to comply. In addition, current tests can miss some crucial human health risks, such as endocrine activity and fetal toxicity. Additional costly and time-consuming animal studies need to be performed to test for these effects.

The ongoing research into alternative, computer-based testing spans decades. Regulatory agencies in the United States, Canada, Europe and Asia have made progress developing models, but the scope is usually limited. Most models can accurately predict a particular hazard for only a small class of structurally-related chemicals.

The new model developed by researchers at Italy’s University of Insubria may go beyond a one-hazard, one-chemical type of approach. The researchers combined information from 180 organic chemicals – including some notorious environmental pollutants such as dioxins, PCBs and polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) – to build a robust computational model. This model ranked the compounds based on their cumulative harm, such that the highest ranked chemicals would have the greatest potential to be toxic, cumulative and persistent.

According to the paper, the model successfully predicted the simultaneous persistence, bioaccumulation and toxicity (PBT) behavior of chemicals based on their chemical structure. The model is applicable to a wide variety of chemicals but was based on traditional, organic-type compounds. It could act as a qualifying tool and may be useful in helping chemists design less hazardous industrial chemicals and materials

Some limitations exist, however, to this approach. The model might not work as well for new, distinct chemicals designed with different chemical properties from those used to build the model. This is because models are based on what is known about how certain chemicals behave in people and the environment. Little information may be known about how new types of chemicals behave, making good hazard predictions challenging. For example, nanomaterials are used in numerous innovative products – such as self-cleaning fabrics, ultra-strong alloys and bacteria-resistant surfaces. But, their toxicity is puzzling and does not always conform to toxicity or environmental behavior patterns that could be predicted by their chemical structure.

Can Green Chemistry get us out of Deepwater?

By Elizabeth Grossman and Karen Peabody O’Brien

It is now more than three months since the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded, killing 11 workers, injuring more, and unleashing its vast underwater oil gusher into the Gulf of Mexico. As this unnatural disaster continues with devastating consequences to Gulf Coast wetlands, wildlife, culture, and economy, our attention is – quite understandably – focused on the immediate. But as we hasten to rescue, repair, and restore, shouldn’t we also be thinking about what we can do to make sure this never happens again?

This question has many answers. Among them is green chemistry, the science that calls for eliminating hazards and waste at the design stage rather than at the end of the pipe – literally and figuratively. While not a magic wand, green chemistry would go a long way toward moving us away from society’s dependence on toxic petrochemicals as the basis for most manufactured materials.

Rather than preventing pollution and toxic exposures by designing products to be without inherent hazards, we’ve relied on containing, or “managing,” the risk of exposure. And risk management works… until it doesn’t. Sooner or later, it fails. Hence Bhopal. Hence toxic spills. Hence the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Accidents happen.

Historically, we’ve taken these risks and assumed the environment would successfully absorb the consequences of our industrial effluence – accidental or intentional. But clearly this is not working.

Green chemistry can change this course. It is a radical departure from the status quo, the age-old practice of valuing expedience at the expense of the environment and human health.

Green chemistry design has already created products like paint made with soy additives, pesticides made from microbes, and plastics made from orange peels. There are even green chemistry products that can break down petroleum in environmentally benign ways, products that detoxify hazardous petrochemicals and leave behind nothing more toxic than oxygen and water. Not only are these products safe for human health but who wouldn’t prefer an orange peel spill to what is happening in the Gulf?

So far, nearly 2 million gallons of chemical oil dispersants have been poured into the Gulf. Yet these EPA-approved dispersants – themselves petroleum-based products with unknown long term ecological and health impacts – are products of the kind of old thinking and outdated design that got us into this mess in the first place.

“This is an engineering miracle,” said Paul Anastas, assistant administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Research and Development, pointing to a photograph of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig. “But when we define our goals, we define the consequences of our actions,” he continued in remarks to the 14th annual American Chemistry Society Green Chemistry and Engineering conference in Washington, DC, last month. “There is no doubt,” said Anastas who is also a founder of green chemistry, “that we’re on an unsustainable trajectory.”

To change this course, said Anastas, “we need to design into our technologies the consequences to human health and the environment.”

We have the capacity to do this – to create high performance products that are both effective and environmentally benign. But until we make a real commitment to this transformation we will be limited to what Anastas called “elegant and expensive technological bandages that are inherently unsustainable.”

What would such a commitment look like?

– Every chemistry PhD student would graduate with an in-depth understanding of the environmental costs and benefits of the design choices they make. Every chemistry student would learn the biological mechanisms of toxicology. Investing in and expanding green chemistry education is key. Equipping the next generation with the tools necessary to create sustainable technologies is essential.

– Government procurement programs would use green chemistry principles to seek out the ‘greenest’ technologies. Rather than being limited to products (ranging from dispersants to carpets) that fit a standard set decades ago, government agencies would be empowered to choose and use the most environmentally innovative.

– Companies would compete to lead the transition away from chemicals of greatest concern. We are not talking about using marginally “less bad” chemicals, but about redesigning products and processes to be inherently benign and sustainable. How much smarter is it to become a market leader rather than wait for regulations to force a change?

We don’t need rocket science to prevent future Deepwater disasters. We need chemistry. And green chemistry is one of our most promising tools. Let’s deploy it to its fullest potential.

Original article at The Huffington Post

High Tech Trash

Chasing Molecules

Follow Elizabeth Grossman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/lizzieg1@twitter

Cancer and green chemistry.

The Boston Globe

Cancer and green chemistry

By Teresa Heinz Kerry, Terry Collins and John Warner July 10, 2010

THE PRESIDENT’S Cancer Panel recently issued a stunning report on the role of environmental factors in causing cancer. For those wondering why America has yet to win the war against cancer, the panel minces no words: “The true burden of environmentally induced cancers has been grossly underestimated.’’ If you ignore the cause, how can you prevent cancer and really win the war?

The panel urges strong actions to reduce people’s widespread exposures to carcinogens. It says the prevailing regulatory approach used in the United States is “reactionary, not preventive.’’ It concludes that US regulation of cancer-causing chemicals is ineffective for several reasons, including inadequate funding, weak laws, and undue industry influence.

This report is not the result of a liberal panel following the lead of the Obama administration. Both panel members were appointed by President George W. Bush and the panel’s public hearings were conducted before Bush left office.The report identifies a series of actions that can be taken to win the war against cancer.

First, it recommends that a prevention-oriented approach should replace the current reactionary system, and that this should become the cornerstone of a new national cancer prevention strategy.

It finds that government agencies responsible for protecting Americans from cancer need more tools, and that a more integrated and transparent system — one driven by science and free from political or industry influence — must be developed to protect public health.

Among its many recommendations, we were especially encouraged to find this: “ ‘Green chemistry’ initiatives and research . . . should be pursued and supported more aggressively. . .’’ Green chemistry offers a path forward that leads both to a healthier America and a wave of positive chemical innovations that can strengthen our economy.

World markets want safe materials. Green chemistry will be able to provide them, but only if it gets the resources it needs to flourish. Other countries, including Germany, India, and, China, are investing far more in green chemistry than the United States does. As demand grows for safer materials because of the compelling science that show how chemicals in wide use today are undermining our health, America’s chemical industry needs to become the leader.

What’s holding us back? Lack of financial support for green chemistry research and innovation. But just turning on the funding spigot won’t be enough. We also need to reinvent how chemistry is taught in US colleges and universities.

Green chemistry equips chemists with the knowledge to ask tough questions about potential hazards when they are thinking about making a new chemical. As they make choices early in new chemical design, this simple step could dramatically reduce the chances that new chemicals would be toxic.

In the past, chemists have rarely been trained to ask these questions. It’s as if a course in driver’s education never taught students about traffic accidents. Perhaps not surprisingly, students as well as potential employers are creating demand for this change.

Green chemistry has a long way to go to develop a full toolkit of chemical methods that can replace more classic approaches. But the path is clear, a “prevention-oriented’’ design strategy that can do honor to the President’s Cancer Panel’s insistence that “new products must be well-studied prior to and following their introduction into the environment. . .’’

Invigorating green chemistry is a win-win solution. Americans will become healthier because the materials in their homes, the air, and water will be safe by design, and the chemical industry will be better positioned to compete in world markets that care about chemical safety.

Teresa Heinz Kerry is chairman of the Heinz Family Philanthropies. Terry Collins is a professor of green chemistry at Carnegie Mellon University. John Warner is president of the Warner-Babcock Institute for Green Chemistry.

Oregon could become a Green Chemistry powerhouse.

Group aims to make Oregon a green chemistry powerhouse

The Oregonian. Published: Thursday, July 01, 2010, 5:51 PM. Original article

Six years ago, Wilsonville-based Coastwide Laboratories introduced a line of cleaning supplies engineered to reduce toxic ingredients and break down into safe compounds after being used.

After a year on the market, the Sustainable Earth line made up 20 percent of Coastwide’s sales, while traditional cleaners made up the rest. Today, the environmentally friendly products make up 80 percent of sales for the company, a division of office supplies giant Staples Inc.

“Fundamentally the proof in the pudding is whether consumers buy the product and continue to buy the product, and what they make the decision to buy the product around,” said Roger McFadden, a vice president and senior scientist at Staples.

A group of Oregon business leaders and researchers have released a report on what Oregon should do to bolster its profile in so-called “green chemistry.” The report profiles Coastwide, Nike, Blount International and Columbia Forest Products, all companies that use green chemistry and are represented on the Oregon Green Chemistry Advisory Group.

To turn Oregon into a green chemistry powerhouse, the advisory group recommends focusing on public awareness and work-related education. Businesses and consumers need to know the advantages of green chemistry and educators need to train a workforce prepared to work in the field.

The report also proposes a hub, housed at an Oregon university, to coordinate green chemistry efforts and a state purchasing policy that gives preference to green products. It also recommends making state economic development funding available for green chemistry activities and creating incentives to mitigate the cost of adopting green chemistry.

The full report is posted on the Oregon Environmental Council’s website.

Green chemistry is based on a set of principles designed to promote environmentally sound production starting from the first design steps. The final products should be non-toxic and should break down into benign substances once they’ve been released into the environment.

The principles also promote efficiency, such as eliminating manufacturing chemicals that don’t make it into the final product and using renewable raw materials.

For the companies, that can mean more efficient production, better compliance with current and future regulation and the chance to pitch their products as the eco-friendly choice.

“Sustainability is integral to (companies’) long-term success, and increasingly they’re realizing that green chemistry is a great tool for overcoming some of their sustainability-related challenges,” said Colin Price, the research director for the Oregon Environmental Council. Price was a member of the advisory group.

Green chemistry is growing among chemical corporations, pushed by government regulation, landmark cases of chemical contamination and, more recently, the rise of a broader sustainability movement, said Todd Cort, the North America regional head of sustainability consulting firm Two Tomorrows.

Cort said the largest chemical companies deal mostly with businesses and aren’t necessarily as responsive to consumer demands. But companies down the supply chain can pressure their suppliers to produce more environmentally friendly chemicals.

“These companies are large enough to recognize the reputational risk from indiscriminate chemical production and also the operation benefits of not having these potential liabilities on the books,” Cort said.

Critics of point to a lack of standards for what constitutes environmentally friendly chemistry, Cort said. Some companies use old government regulations in their toxicity testing, and determining environmental impact can depend largely on context. For example, shopping bags that decay in the light won’t do much good in a landfill.

But the green chemical industry has nowhere to go but up, Cort said.

“There’s absolutely zero growth in the non-green sector,” he said. “Everything is getting more strict. All chemical production will have to slowly improve its green credentials over time.”

Elliot Njus