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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.

2012-0410greenchemistry2
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.

Green Chemistry and the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement

By Lin Kaatz Chary, PhD, MPH, Executive Director,  Great Lakes Green Chemistry Network 

The cornerstone of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (GLWQA), a non-binding agreement between the U.S. and Canada (the Parties) which has been a pillar of Great Lakes chemicals policy on both sides of the border, has been the recognition that preventing the entry of hazardous and toxic substances into the Great Lakes is the most effective way of restoring the quality of the Great Lakes ecosystem and protecting it from further contamination and harm. Building on language originally written for the U.S. Clean Water Act in the 1970’s, the 1987 amended Agreement called for the “virtual elimination of toxic substances in toxic amounts” to be achieved through “zero discharge” of pollutants into the lakes. In addition, the Agreement stressed the need to develop substitutes and alternatives for existing toxic contaminants.
This emphasis on prevention provides a perfect interface for integrating the principles of Green Chemistry and Engineering (“GC&E”) into the GLWQA, and offers, for the first time in the Agreement’s history, an explicit practical strategy for achieving the goals of virtual elimination and zero discharge. One of the problems historically with the GLWQA has been the inability of various stakeholders to come to agreement on how to practically define zero discharge and virtual elimination, with many in the regulated community expressing the concern that neither was achievable.
The framework of green chemistry and green engineering make that argument far less relevant, because the emphasis is shifted to committing to continuous improvement in the development of substitutions and alternatives, and to a model based on prevention rather than management of chemical exposures. GC&E, in the words of a 2010 report by the Center for Green Chemistry and Green Engineering at Yale University, are “systems-based approaches that promote design for reduced hazard across the entire life cycle of chemicals, from design, manufacture, and use to end of life. They integrate knowledge from across chemistry, engineering, environmental science, and toxicology in order to reduce and, ideally, eliminate adverse impacts on health and the environment. GC&E provide a framework for a preventative approach based on innovation that improves technical performance, profits, and social benefit.”[1]
The Yale report goes on to characterize three key areas in which GC&E can be useful, which are quoted here in their entirety with slight modifications to enhance their relevance to the specific needs and process of the GLWQA.
 
1. Technical: The development and deployment of metrics, tools, education, knowledge sharing and communication to support the continuous development and implementation of GC&E-based innovations.
2. Policy: The use of regulatory authorities in a variety of ways, including (but not limited) to help remove market distortions that protect or favor more hazardous alternatives, to provide incentives for GC&E-based alternatives, and to engage in voluntary agreements and collaborations.
3. Financial: The leveraging of funds by the governments of both Parties to support green chemistry and engineering research, development, and implementation.[2]
 At a time when millions of tons of toxic pollutants continue to be released into the Great Lakes basin, the need for a more aggressive and more clearly defined strategy based on this model for addressing the problem is more important than ever. In its 2010 report Partners in Pollution 2, the Canadian group Pollution Watch, using the most recent data available (2007), reported that “285 million kg of pollutants . . . were released and transferred (excluding recycling) . . . into the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River basin” from reporting facilities.[3] While this actually represents a reduction in releases, this magnitude of chemical loading is still a significant challenge!
And, while both Parties agree that great strides have been made in reaching the “low hanging fruit” and achieving many of the goals set forth by the Binational Toxics Strategy in 1999, the statistics above demonstrate that there is still a long way to go. Better tools for analysis are being developed at EPA’s Sustainable Technology Division, such as their Waste Reduction Algorithm (“WAR”), and the Program to Assist the Replacement of Industrial Solvents (“PARIS”), and both of these are based on green chemistry and engineering principles, which is encouraging. But, will these tools be brought to bear in the new Agreement? Is there enough cross fertilization at EPA and Environment Canada to assure that they will be aware of these tools and formally integrate them into the Agreement? The binational negotiation team has made it clear that neither green chemistry nor green engineering are explicitly referenced in the new Agreement; what does this mean in terms of their recognition and knowledge about the kinds of resources available in their own agencies, let alone at outside institutions? As we will not see any language until after the Agreement has been signed and released to the public, the extent to which GC & E will be part of the new Agreement remains unknown.


[1] Matus, Kira MJ, Beach, Evan, Zimmerman, Julie B., Integrating Green Chemistry and Green Engineering into the Revitalization of the Toxics Substances Control Act, Center for Green Chemistry and Green Engineering, Yale University, New Haven, CT, June, 2010, p.3.
[2] Ibid, p. 4.
[3] Partners in Pollution 2, Pollution Watch, Toronto, CA, 2010, http://www.cela.ca/sites/cela.ca/files/709.ExecutiveSummaryEN.pdf

Hitting the Bottle.

By DOMINIQUE BROWNING
New York Times
Published: May 8, 2011

SUDDENLY, there’s a baby boom going on around me. I’m making weekly shopping trips to stock friends’ nurseries, and I’m struck by how many signs on the shelves advertise BPA-free bottles, BPA-free sippy cups. It breaks my heart. Manufacturers might be removing BPA, a chemical used to harden certain plastics, from their products, but they are substituting chemicals that may be just as dangerous, if not more so.

Read original post here.

State Chemical Regulation: Green Chemistry, Chemical Bans and Other Efforts to Limit Chemical Exposures.

There is growing trend in US states to create legislation regulating chemicals in consumer products.  This is a good thing for green chemistry in that these regulations and bans can act as drivers for green chemistry innovation. But what about the so-called “Green Chemistry” laws in various states?  Obviously banning or restricting chemicals is not actually doing green chemistry (no one is making molecules here, they are banning them. Chemistry is making molecules.). So what kind of laws are out there that actually do enable, support, or assist the development of Green Chemistry? Here is a hint: check out Michigan and Minnesota (but beware of California’s example).

State Chemical Regulation: Green Chemistry, Chemical Bans and Other Efforts to Limit Chemical Exposures.

by: Stephen C. Jones, Greenberg Traurig, LLP – Philadelphia Office

April 15, 2011 (Previously published on April 12, 2011)

To the consternation of many manufacturers, distributors, and retailers, states increasingly are taking steps to regulate chemicals contained in consumer and personal care products. The consumer and personal care products industry has made it known that it would prefer consistent, comprehensive federal regulation, rather than having to comply with a mixed-bag of varying state and local requirements. However, according to Healthy States, a November 2010 report prepared by the advocacy group Safer States, in the last decade both the number of states adopting chemical regulation laws, and the number of laws they have adopted, have tripled. MIKE BELLIVEAU, SAFER STATES, HEALTHY STATES: PROTECTING FAMILIES FROM TOXIC CHEMICALS WHILE CONGRESS LAGS BEHIND 6 (2010) [hereinafter HEALTHY STATES], available at http://www.saferstates.com. According to the study, 18 states passed 71 new chemical safety laws during that period. Id. All indications are that this trend will continue.

Read the full article at Martindale.com

Newly identified chemicals leach into food packages, pose regulatory challenge.

Synopsis by Emily Barrett
— last modified Feb 07, 2011 09:25 AM

Muncke, J. Endocrine disrupting chemicals and other substances of concern in food contact materials: An updated review of exposure, effect and risk assessment. Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jsbmb.2010.10.004.

It is well-known that eating fresh fruits and vegetables can reduce extra fat, salt and calories; but now there are additional reasons to choose fresh foods over processed ones.

Increasingly, evidence shows that the plastics and wrappers used for packaging can inadvertently leach unwanted chemicals into food. Several recent studies found high levels of bisphenol A – an environmental chemical that can disrupt hormonal processes – in canned foods and in packaged foods for people and pets.

Now, another study suggests that the problems go far beyond just one culprit or one health effect. Among the many toxic chemicals that can migrate from packaging into food are the endocrine disrupting phthalates and organotins and the carcinogen benzophenone. These compounds are heavily used in food packaging and have known health effects, yet are not routinely tested or regulated in food.

Although some regulations exist to guarantee safe food packaging, the current system does not address concerns posed by endocrine disrupting chemicals. The associated health effects of exposure to hormone altering compounds are many and varied, including immune disfunction, metabolic disorders (diabetes, thyroid) and reproductive problems.

A number of other notable regulatory flaws include not testing mixtures and a lack of understanding of different effects on different populations – from children to developing fetus to adults to the elderly.

Currently, chemical toxicity tests are only required when compounds reach certain levels in food. In the U.S., it is 0.5 parts per billion (ppb) for general toxicity and 1 ppm for reproductive toxicity.

The guidelines, though, do not consider the collective numbers and toxicity – alone or in combination – of all of the chemicals that can leach from the packaging. In a chemical mix, individual health effects may be magnified. Printing, ink, adhesives, recycled cardboard and the plastic containers can all introduce unwanted chemicals into a single food product, creating a mix with additive or synergystic effects. What’s more, the chemicals may degrade over time or form new compounds that migrate into food. These can go entirely unmeasured since it is nearly impossible to identify and test for them all.

Kids may be at particular risk. Not only are their bodies still developing and hence susceptible to environmental insults, but they tend to eat more packaged foods, a more limited diet and more food for their body weight than adults do. There are similar concerns for pregnant women and their fetuses, as well as obese adults, whose bodies may process these chemicals differently from their trimmer counterparts.

More stringent and broader regulations as well as testing programs may be necessary to further identify and reduce exposures – especially in children and women of reproductive age – to a broad swath of chemicals found in canned, packaged and other processed food.

See original post in Environmental Health Sciences

Increasing the Focus on Green Chemistry in New England.

Science Wednesday: a blog post from the US EPA’s Curt Spalding.

Posted on January 5th, 2011 – 10:30 AM


Each week we write about the science behind environmental protection. Previous Science Wednesdays.

By Curt Spalding

New England is abuzz with discussions and planning to position the Northeast as a green chemistry force for the country and the world.

What is Green Chemistry? Simply put, it seeks to design and invent the next generation of everyday materials and products by reducing or eliminating the use or generation of hazardous substances. Green chemistry means less waste, better energy efficiency and reduced risks for us and our environment. It’s an ongoing process of applying innovation, creativity and intelligence.

I believe green chemistry will be a powerful economic engine for the U.S. and for New England.

Last summer, along with my colleague Paul Anastas, we began brainstorming how to bring together green chemistry leaders from the Northeast. We sought out John Warner of Warner Babcock Institute for Green Chemistry , Amy Cannon of Beyond Benign , and New England leaders in government, academia and business to strategize what a sustainable green chemistry future might look like – and how we could make it happen in New England.

Read the entire post here.

A Proactive Approach to Toxic Chemicals: Moving Green Chemistry Beyond Alternatives in the “Safe Chemicals Act of 2010”.

Kira J. M. Matus*, Julie B. Zimmerman and Evan Beach

* Corresponding author e-mail: kira.matus@yale.edu.,

On April 15, Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) introduced the “Safe Chemicals Act of 2010” in the United States Senate. On the same day, Representatives Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Bobby Rush (D-IL) released a discussion draft of a similar bill in the House. These bills present an important and much needed modernization to the management and regulation of chemical hazards in the United States.

The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), the regulation designed to protect Americans and their environment from chemical hazards, has not had its core provisions significantly amended since its enactment in 1976. However, in recent years, there has been increased pressure on lawmakers to rethink the government’s approach to the hazards that arise during the lifecycle of chemical production and use.

There are several drivers for action on chemicals management legislation including (1) recent concerns on the part of nongovernmental organizations and the public about particular chemical hazards (BPA, phthalates, etc…), (2) strict state level chemical regulations, and (3) the enactment of a comprehensive chemical regulation program by the European Community known as Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemical substances (REACH). Further, in 2009, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson laid out the Obama Administration’s key priorities for TSCA reform (1). This was accompanied by similar proposals from industry and the NGO communities indicating a desire to update TSCA.

Many of the provisions included in the recently proposed legislation, such as shifting the burden of data provision from the EPA to industry, are widely supported. Other elements, such as what data should be provided, how chemicals will be prioritized, the scope of EPA’s authority to take action, and whether it is feasible to “prove” the safety of a chemical have emerged as topics for vigorous debate.

Among the many elements in the current bills, there is one provision, “Green Chemistry”, that has the potential, in the long term, to drastically change the paradigm of the chemical enterprise. Green chemistry, simply defined, is “the design of chemical products and processes that reduce or eliminate the use or generation of hazardous substances” (2). Based on 12 Principles (2), Green Chemistry is a systems-based approach for reduced hazard across the entire life cycle of chemicals, from design, manufacture, and use to end of life. It integrates knowledge from across chemistry, engineering, environmental science, and toxicology to reduce, and ideally, eliminate, adverse impacts on human health and the environment.

Both versions of the bill, picking up on Administrator Jackson’s call for green chemistry to be a core element in TSCA reform, explicitly mention the need to “spur innovation in green chemistry”. They address this with a series of proposals under the title of “Safer Alternatives and Green Chemistry and Engineering”. The programs included in this section are laudable. They would provide incentives for the creation of greener, less hazardous alternatives through research funding, expedited review processes, awards, labeling programs, and the creation of four national green chemistry and engineering research centers.

While these provisions are clear signals to the chemical enterprise representing a strong beginning for enhancing green chemistry innovation, there are additional activities and strategies that can and should be advanced. Green chemistry is about more than developing safer alternatives. It is fundamentally a series of guidelines to designing chemicals to reduce, and ideally eliminate, hazard. Green chemistry is a preventive approach based on innovation that improves technical performance, profits, and social benefit. It takes into account long-term, life-cycle thinking.

Green chemistry is at its most powerful as a tool for the development of the next generation of chemical innovations. For new chemicals and materials, it is much more efficient if they are as safe as possible from the outset, eliminating the need to develop alternatives in the future. If the principles of green chemistry were broadly implemented, both in the scientific research community and in industry, they would be a powerful, market-oriented, economically favorable approach to protecting human health and the environment from any potential adverse impacts before they could be manifested.

As discussion of these bills moves forward, stakeholders involved in the process should think more creatively about how the tools of green chemistry can be incorporated throughout the reformed TSCA regulatory process. This means thinking not just about alternatives to chemicals already in commerce, but also about ways to develop and disseminate the knowledge so that new innovations are progressively safer and greener. There are a variety of approaches that should be explored including:

1.  Make use of the power of public reporting, and familiarize firms with including Green Chemistry Principles and accounting in their statements:

a. Grant the EPA the authority to include green chemistry metrics in the data that it can require manufacturers to submit as part of their data sets. This could include information such as E-factor (a measure of the efficiency of production), use or generation of hazardous substances based on those chemicals currently listed, and use of renewable energy or material feedstocks.

b. Have the EPA work with NGOs, academia, and industry to create a template for a green chemistry “scorecard” for chemicals and mixtures. Provide incentives for manufacturers who voluntarily submit green chemistry “scorecards” on their products.

c. Make green chemistry information on chemicals publicly available, to spur public awareness and empower consumers.

2. Take advantage of the large quantity of data that will be submitted to develop new tools to make it easier for firms to incorporate green chemistry in their processes:

a.  Environmental and toxicological data on existing chemicals could be used to help develop tools, such as molecular design guidelines, that would allow chemical firms to more easily integrate green chemistry into their product development.

3.  Support forward-looking research and innovation:

a. Extend research support beyond existing alternatives identification to include development of new chemical products and processes; also identify key challenges and emerging technologies as priority areas for investment in Green Chemistry and Engineering (GC&E) research

4. Foster collaborations:

a. Create programs that allow the government to incentivize collaboration between industry and academia to develop and implement GC&E based technologies.

b.  Establish an interagency green chemistry forum to identify and prioritize key areas of GC&E R&D, and mechanisms for integration into various agency programs.

These are just a few of the ways green chemistry could be integrated into a reformed TSCA in a more holistic manner. Green chemistry does not need to be a separate program, but can be woven in throughout the regulation. Instead of relying on a reactive approach, a reformed TSCA presents the opportunity to simultaneously foster a proactive approach. According to both of the proposed bills, the policy of the United States will be “to protect the health of children, workers, consumers, and the public, and to protect the environment from adverse effects of exposures to chemicals” (3). If it is included more broadly throughout this regulatory framework, green chemistry can play an important role in creating a trajectory of chemical innovation that reduces hazards from the outset, which is the most effective and efficient way to protect Americans and their environment.

References


This article references 3 other publications.

  1. 1.

    U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Essential Principles for Reform of Chemicals Management Legislation. http://www.epa.gov/oppt/existingchemicals/pubs/principles.pdf. Accessed May 21

    , 2010.

    OpenURL DAVIDSON COLLEGE LIBRARY
  2. 2.
    Anastas, P. T. and Warner, J. C. Green Chemistry: Theory and Practice; Oxford University Press: Oxford, UK and New York, 1998.

    OpenURL DAVIDSON COLLEGE LIBRARY
  3. 3.

    “Safe Chemicals Act of 2010.” United States Senate, 111th Congress, S.3209, Sec. 32, 2010.

    OpenURL DAVIDSON COLLEGE LIBRARY

TOX21 Pools Government Agencies’ Resources to Test Chemicals for Toxicity.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has joined the Tox21 collaboration, which leverages federal agency resources, including research, funding and testing tools, to develop models for more effective chemical risk assessments. The FDA is expected to provide additional expertise and chemical safety information to improve current chemical testing methods.

The collaboration, established in 2008, includes the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences National Toxicology Program (NTP) and the National Institute of Health Chemical Genomics Center (NCGC) and now the FDA.

EPA says 2,000 chemicals have already been screened against dozens of biological targets. The group is targeting 10,000 chemicals screened by the end of the year.

FDA will collaborate with other Tox21 members to prioritize chemicals that need more extensive toxicological evaluation, and develop models that can better predict human response to chemicals.

EPA contributes to Tox21 through the ToxCast program and by providing chemicals and additional automated tests to NCGC. ToxCast currently includes 500 chemical screening tests that have assessed more 300 environmental chemicals.

A major part of the Tox21 partnership is the robotic screening and informatics platform at NCGC that uses fast, automated tests to screen thousands of chemicals a day for toxicological activity in cells, says EPA.

In April, the EPA launched its Web-based chemicals database, ToxRefDB, which allows anyone to search and download thousands of toxicity testing results on hundreds of chemicals. This latest announcement is part of the EPA’s policy to increase the transparency of chemical information.

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

“Thoughtful Design Versus Reaction” by Paul Anastas

Thoughtful Design Versus Reaction

by Paul Anastas, Assistant Administrator, US EPA, Director of the Office of Research and Development

From: US EPA Science Matters

Seldom in all my years at EPA have I been more impressed by the raw effort and dedication of the people of EPA, and of course here in the Office of Research and Development, in response to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Day in and day out I’ve been in the Emergency Operations Center where people come together to solve some of the most challenging questions the Agency has ever faced, and work to prevent a tragedy from becoming a catastrophe.

As I look around the table, I see scientists and engineers sitting down and intensely engaging with economists, attorneys, communication specialists, and community outreach experts. It is a truly integrated trans-disciplinary endeavor. It has made it even more clear to me than it had been before the importance of integrated trans-disciplinary systems thinking.

When we are faced by the type of emergency such as the tragedy in the Gulf, we recognize that it takes all talents to come together and focus like a laser.

What is also clearer to me than ever before is that it is the lack of this kind of integrated trans-disciplinary systems thinking up-front that often leads us as a society into these types of environmental crisis situations.  Thoughtful sustainable design has the potential to minimize both the potential for these types of situations to occur and to minimize the consequences when accidents do happen.  It is a classic example of invest a little now versus having to pay tremendously later.

How will our response to the tragedy unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico change how we approach EPA research, now and into the future?  By incorporating integrated trans-disciplinary design into our scientific and technical support actions, our research products will be useful and informative to those seeking to make the products, processes, and systems of the future more sustainable and to those who are reacting to the next foreseeable yet unforeseen crisis.

Our colleagues are contributing to dealing with the situation in the Gulf — spending days, nights, and weekends.  How I wish it were unnecessary for them to be working on such a terrible event.  The hope remains that as we spend our efforts on thoughtful trans-disciplinary design through our research that there will be fewer of these tragedies in the future.

More information about EPA’s response to the BP Oil spill is available on the US EPA web site:
http://www.epa.gov/bpspill/.