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What is Green Chemistry?

August 11, 2010
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In the story of cosmetics, Annie Leonard mentioned “green chemists” producing new beauty products that are less harmful to the environment, and to us! I wondered what green chemistry was, what it meant, and what it means to us consumers… so I checked it out.

For a brief introduction, see this!

Green chemistry, also known as sustainable chemistry, is the design of chemical products and processes that reduce or eliminate the use or generation of hazardous substances. Green chemistry applies across the life cycle of a chemical product, including its design, manufacture, and use (U.S. EPA, 2010).

Paul Anastas, Director of the Center for Green Chemistry and Green Engineering at Yale came up with the 12 principles of green chemistry. Here they are:

1. Prevention
It is better to prevent waste than to treat or clean up waste after it has been created.

2. Atom Economy
Synthetic methods should be designed to maximize the incorporation of all materials used in the process into the final product.
3. Less Hazardous Chemical Syntheses
Wherever practicable, synthetic methods should be designed to use and generate substances that possess little or no toxicity to human health and the environment.
4. Designing Safer Chemicals
Chemical products should be designed to effect their desired function while minimizing their toxicity.
5. Safer Solvents and Auxiliaries
The use of auxiliary substances (e.g., solvents, separation agents, etc.) should be made unnecessary wherever possible and innocuous when used.
6. Design for Energy Efficiency
Energy requirements of chemical processes should be recognized for their environmental and economic impacts and should be minimized. If possible, synthetic methods should be conducted at ambient temperature and pressure.
7. Use of Renewable Feedstocks
A raw material or feedstock should be renewable rather than depleting whenever technically and economically practicable.
8. Reduce Derivatives
Unnecessary derivatization (use of blocking groups, protection/ deprotection, temporary modification of physical/chemical processes) should be minimized or avoided if possible, because such steps require additional reagents and can generate waste.
9. Catalysis
Catalytic reagents (as selective as possible) are superior to stoichiometric reagents.
10. Design for Degradation
Chemical products should be designed so that at the end of their function they break down into innocuous degradation products and do not persist in the environment.
11. Real-time analysis for Pollution Prevention
Analytical methodologies need to be further developed to allow for real-time, in-process monitoring and control prior to the formation of hazardous substances.
12. Inherently Safer Chemistry for Accident Prevention
Substances and the form of a substance used in a chemical process should be chosen to minimize the potential for chemical accidents, including releases, explosions, and fires.
So what does Green Chemistry have to do with Climate Change? Check out some of these articles & websites for more:
Chemistry for a Sustainable World: Green Chemistry, the environment, science & society, for the nontechnical reader

Green Chemistry: Changing An Industry

U.S. Tsunami Warning: California’s “Regulations for safer products” are on the way

Green Chemistry: Scientists Devise New “Benign by Design” Drugs, Paints, Pesticides and More

Enjoy! 🙂

Mel

References
U.S. EPA (http://www.epa.gov/gcc/)
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