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Fifty years ago, Rachel Carson published Silent Spring—a book that opened people’s eyes to the connection between chemicals and their unintended effects on the environment and human health. It was the birth of an environmental perspective grounded in science that captured the public’s interest, challenged the old scientific and industrial guard, and over time, inspired significant changes in our perception and care for the environment. Spring seeded important new ideas in the public mind: That spraying chemicals to control insect populations can also kill birds that feed on dead or dying insects. That chemicals travel not only through the environment, but through food chains. That chemicals that don’t outright kill can accumulate in fat tissues causing medical problems later on, and that chemicals can be transferred generationally from mothers to their young.” (American Chemical Society National Historic Chemical Landmarks. Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. Accessed November 6, 2012).


Much has been said about the importance of Rachel Carson’s message, but, as Dr. Nancy Jackson, Immediate Past President of the ACS recently pointed out, “What is seldom discussed is how her work has influenced chemists and the chemical industry.”


Dr. Jackson continues, “Today, Carson's systemic, ecological approach provides the backbone for green chemistry, which has become a major force worldwide. Now, chemists choose processes that create less waste, use less water and resources, solve problems without being more powerful than necessary and develop products that degrade and metabolize in concert with nature.”


The adoption of green chemistry is a perfect example of how the chemical industry is changing in response to ecological awareness. It also serves as a reminder of how much more work has to be done, since green chemistry represents only a fraction of the total global chemical industry. Certainly, there is nearly unending opportunity and also great need for chemists to continue to make an impact in this area.


To recognize the importance of Carson's work, the American Chemical Society officially designated the legacy of Silent Spring as a National Historic Chemical Landmark in a ceremony at Chatham University (home of the Rachel Carson Institute) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on October 26th 2012. As part of the event, a tour of a local company was organized—Thar Industries, Inc., which applies green chemistry principles to develop supercritical fluid technologies. An official commemorative booklet is available to download or read online.


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By Jennifer Acevedo, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality

The 2012 Michigan Green Chemistry and Engineering Conference brought over 130 people together on October 26th at Wayne State University to discuss advancing and sustaining green products and processes in Michigan.

Conference proceedings and information about Michigan’s Green Chemistry Program are available on the Web at

With a theme of “driving sustainable manufacturing”, keynote speakers Carrie Majeske from Ford Motor Company and Bob Peoples (pictured left), former director of the American Chemical Society Green Chemistry Institute, provided inspiration and specific examples of the power of green chemistry. Photography by Jim Klein,




In addition to nine technical breakout sessions, conference participants enjoyed poster presentations from future leaders. This year’s Student Poster Award went to Elvan Sari from Wayne State University for her work on green diesel production. Photography by Jim Klein,






Bryce Feighner, DEQ discussing bio-based products with 7th graders from Ecotek Labs. Photography by Darlene Harris, DEQ
















Mike Rogers from the Small Business Association of Michigan interviewing Director Wyant at the GreenUp Conference.



















4th Annual Michigan Green Chemistry Governor’s Awards Presentation

The Michigan Green Chemistry Governor Awards recognize advances that either incorporate the principles of green chemistry into chemical design, manufacture or use, or promote activities that support or implement those technologies. Awards are open to individuals, groups and organizations, both nonprofit and for profit, including academia, educators, nonprofit advocacy groups and industry. Two winners were recognized this year for innovations in the movement toward safer and more sustainable chemical products and processes.

ACADEMIC WINNER: Dr. Vijay Mannari of Eastern Michigan University– Sustainable and Advanced Coatings Materials Based on Soybean Oil

BUSINESS WINNER: The Dow Chemical Company– Dow Polymeric Flame Retardant


Governor Award winners with Director Wyant. From L to R – Chris Bloom-Dow, Ted Morgan-Dow, Director Wyant, and Vijay Mannari-Eastern Michigan University. Photography by Darlene Harris, DEQ

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By Ken Zarker, Washington State Department of Ecology

Washington State was pleased to host the 2012 Green Chemistry Roundtable at the Suquamish Clearwater Hotel on October 23-25.


Green Chemistry Workshops

The event kicked-off with two green chemistry workshops conducted in partnership with the ACS Green Chemistry Institute® (ACS GCI). Dr. Richard T. Williams, founder and president of Environmental Science & Green Chemistry Consulting, conducted the Introductory Green Chemistry 101 short course that helped the attendees understand the concepts of green chemistry. The afternoon session featured, Dr. Marty Mulvihill, Director of the Berkeley Center for Green Chemistry at the University of California. Marty’s presentation provided attendees with a more in depth look at business case studies, metrics and tools for green chemistry.  The Roundtable plans to host the Advanced Course in 2013.


A Regional Assessment

The second day of the conference offered a regional assessment and opportunities to solve the toxic threats facing the Puget Sound and the Columbia River basin. Regional leaders from businesses, government and nongovernmental organization outlined strategies to address emerging contaminants, how toxics are impacting people and the environment, regional green chemistry initiatives and the latest in the development of Washington’s Toxics Reduction Strategy.

Green Chemistry Business Roundtable

The event concluded with the Green Chemistry Business Roundtable: Supply Chain Perspectives on Challenges and Opportunities. Ken Zarker of the Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology) kicked off the welcome with a presentation on the opportunities to advance regional collaboration to help advance business innovation and economic development through green chemistry.


Rich Williams provided a presentation on the business value for green chemistry and potential regional models for industry collaboration based on other initiatives around the U.S.


A fascinating case study panel followed with two excellent presentations on supply chain perspectives related to green chemistry. Joe David of Point 32 and Tom Schneider of Building Envelope Innovations provided insights into product reformulation efforts as part of the Living Building Challenge to meet the requirement for the new Bullitt Center in Seattle. Mickey Blake of Mt. Baker Bio, provided an inspiring presentation from the view of the entrepreneur working to advance green chemistry.


Richard Williams followed with a presentation on strategic approaches to greener manufacturing. His presentation provided insights to the use of tools and techniques that businesses are using to promote product innovation.

The afternoon session featured breakout sessions based on the following topics:


  • Group 1: Tools & Technical Assistance – This session was facilitated by Brian Penttila of the Northwest Pollution Prevention Resource Center (PRRC). It included a presentation of the development of alternatives assessment guidance by Alex Stone of Ecology and a demonstration of an automated “list translator” tool of the GreenScreen methodology by Cheri Peele representing Clean Production Action.


  • Group 2: Creating a Washington State Green Chemistry Center – This group was lead by Ken Zarker, Ecology and Marjorie Martz Emerson, Hewlett Packard (retired). The group discussed the opportunity to establish a regional green chemistry center and  public-private partnership to facilitate collaboration among industry, academia, government, and nongovernmental organizations.

  • Group 3: Identifying and prioritizing green chemistry research needs – Rob Duff of Ecology lead the discussion on opportunities to advance green chemistry research based on his experience with chemicals of concern to Puget Sound. Ecology recently launched a new, user-friendly website--the Puget Sound Toxics Assessment website, that explains what we currently know about toxic chemical pollution in the Puget Sound region. The website links what’s known about toxic contamination in Puget Sound to ongoing efforts to keep the contaminants out of the nation’s second-largest estuary. It also includes a frequently asked questions section about the comprehensive toxic chemical investigation. The group discussed the need to prioritize research needs to help bridge the gap between green chemistry and applied research needs that focus on product innovation and solutions.


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By Federico H. Cova, PhD Candidate at Balseiro Institute, Argentina


When working in the field of alternative energy sources it is usual to think only in the part of the process in which the research is centered. From this view, you can always say that what you do is good, after all, how can hydrogen be a worse alternative than fossil fuels? It’s hydrogen! Water is the only product of the reaction in a fuel cell. Which energy source can be cleaner than solar power? The sun does all the work, we just need to collect what it gives to us and, anyway, the sun will continue to deliver its energy no matter what we do. I must admit that I belonged to that group of people; I believed that fuel cells and hydrogen were undoubtedly the best alternative for the energy future of the planet, that there was no disadvantage in this kind of energy.


And then I went to ACS summer school in green chemistry, and I was forced to open my eyes. Many times while working in science we tend to focus exclusively on the area of interest closest to our subject, losing the big picture. What is the purpose of reducing vehicle emissions if to achieve this we must increase industrial emissions in an even larger amount?


The experience of green chemistry summer school allowed me to stop and think about things that I did not think about before despite knowing them. Nobody believes that the materials used in their research appear magically in the supplier's warehouse, but perhaps many tend to dismiss the impact that the production process of these materials has on the environment.


How much does the manufacture of a solar panel increase the amount of greenhouse gases emitted? How significant is the impact of the manufacture of materials used for fuel cells?


I have never asked myself these kinds of questions before, but I’m sure I’ll do it the next time I have to choose a material to work. In short, summer school gave me a new perspective about my way of doing science. And with this new knowledge also gave me, and I hope to the rest of those who participated in it, the responsibility to study more carefully and evaluate in a more global way what we do in our research and the consequences it brings.


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To read other posts, go to Green Chemistry: The Nexus Blog home.“Everybody gets into chemistry because you want to help the world somehow,” says Dr. Joseph Fortunak. Motivated by this, Dr. Fortunak graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a PhD in Organic Chemistry and after a postdoctoral stint at Cambridge University spent over 20 years in the pharmaceutical industry, most recently as Director and Head of Global Process R&D at Abbott Laboratories. Dr. Fortunak brought new drugs through development for illnesses including heart disease, cancer, HIV, and malaria. Early on, Dr. Fortunak was introduced to green chemistry. He describes that as an organic chemist working in drug discovery, process efficiencies were always a concern. However, when Paul Anastas and John Warner’s slim volume, “Green Chemistry – Theory and Practice” was published in 1998, it “consolidated the subject” by bringing a focus and a framework to the collection of technologies and approaches that could, among other things, bring down the cost of drug production.


Throughout his work, Dr. Fortunak had occasion to travel to many parts of the world—including India, China, and Africa—where he saw firsthand that no matter how many new life-saving drugs were brought to market, much of the world continued to have little access to medications. The richest 15% of countries consume 91% of all medicines (ATM; 2010) and according the World Health Organization (WHO) an estimated 2 billion people do not have adequate access to medicine. “If we are going to make the fruits of technology available to the rest of the world it’s got to be done much more efficiently then it’s done now,” Fortunak realized. It was clear to him then addressing this global challenge would mean working outside industry—since new drug discovery, although very important, wouldn’t solve the problem of access. Always wanting to someday return to academia, he joined Howard University in Washington, DC as a Professor of Chemistry and Pharmaceutical Sciences in 2004.


Here Dr. Fortunak and his students use green principles to develop new chemistry for key drugs, including those used commonly for HIV/AIDS and Malaria, in order to lower the price and make them more available in lower income countries. Working with non-governmental organizations, such as the Clinton Health Access Initiative, Dr. Fortunak has distributed this new science to generic drug manufactures in India and China without charge or royalties. 2007, Dr. Fortunak got a call from an old friend, Dr. Steve Byrn at Purdue University who had met an African health specialist and nun named Sister Zita Ekeocha. Sister Zita, had previously managed the faith-based medical stores in Nigeria, a network responsible for distributing roughly 60% of all medications in that country of 160 million people. Sister Zita was on a mission to teach Africans how to manufacture their own generic medicines.


In Africa there is a real problem of both access to medicines and quality of the medicines available—a 2007 study by US Pharmacopeia revealed that 48% of drugs imported to Africa were either counterfeit or substandard. While the World Health Organization and USFDA have quality standards that successfully regulate medicines which flow through donor agencies, these comprise only a portion of the medicines available and only cover a handful of high profile diseases like Malaria, HIV, and Tuberculosis. Getting medicines for other diseases, even if one had the money—and many Africans do not—is very difficult if not impossible for most people. The pharmaceutical industry within much of Africa is nascent, lacking the expertise and resources to thrive, as are the African drug regulatory bodies. Highly trained Africans often leave the country to study and don’t come back. Tanzania for example has only 1 pharmacist for every 70,000 people and even fewer doctors. None of the significant global funds available to purchase drugs through donation monies are available to African manufacturers because – with very few exceptions – they do not meet international standards for Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP). Cultivating pharmaceutical sciences and drug regulation in Africa could, therefore, be an effective means of improving access, quality, price, and encouraging economic development.


In 2008, Dr. Fortunak, Dr. Byrn and Sister Zita first met in Abuja, Nigeria and formed a collaboration. Sister Zita was already advancing plans for the Industrial Pharmacy Advanced Training (IPAT) Program at the Kilimanjaro School of Pharmacy in Moshi, Tanzania through the Saint Luke Foundation. The new program would be designed to accomplish two objectives: “One of these is to teach Africans to manufacture their own high quality drugs at affordable prices to expand the supply of medicines and make them more available. And the second is to teach the fundamentals of drug discovery and drug development so that, well-trained pharmacists can build an independent, sustainable future.” funding from the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) they developed a Graduate Certificate Program for industrial pharmacy and quality control comprised of a sequence of four courses over two years. (A proposal is in place to expand into a Master’s Degree in 2013.) The classes explicitly teach green chemistry. For example, Dr. Fortunak set up a challenge for one of his graduate students at Howard to develop new chemistry for two drugs that go into an Artemisinin Combination Therapy (ACT) for Malaria—Dihydroartemisinin and Piperaquine—using only solvents and processes easily available in Africa. Dr. Fortunak’s student, Christopher King, managed to reduce the E-Factor, or ratio of the mass of waste per unit of product, of Piperaquine from 45 to 6. Then on an ACS GREET Scholarship, Chris took this research to the classroom and laboratory in Tanzania where the students used it to manufacture both active ingredients and then formulate these drug into adult- and pediatric-strength tablets. Dr. Fortunak estimates the cost of producing the drug this way is 50% cheaper, and of course, can actually be made in Africa. the program started, 50 professional students have graduated. Seven of these are university professors in Africa, and the remaining are about equally split between industry and government. Of the industrial students, four companies have applied for and three already received qualification for either the USFDA or the WHO standards, giving them access to the global drug market for the first time, and building a foundation for sustainable drug access in Africa. Additionally, the IPAT team recently held a workshop with the US FDA for government regulators in Africa covering training to both assure medicinal quality and catch those who are selling substandard medicines.


His work is an example of how green chemistry can help address a humanitarian issue of great importance, and how the expertise of chemists is needed to help solve global challenges.


"The Nexus Blog" is a sister publication of "The Nexus" newsletter. To sign up for the newsletter, please email, or if you have an ACS ID, login to your email preferences and select "The Nexus" to subscribe.

To continue reading, go to Green Chemistry: The Nexus Blog home.

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