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Designing Safer Molecules through Toxicology Education

Honored Contributor
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Contributed by Nimrat K. Obhi, Ph.D., Program Manager, Higher Education, Beyond Benign


It is essential that current and future scientists are able to understand and practice chemistry that supports good health and well-being. Additionally, it is critical that chemistry is used in ways that align with responsible consumption and production. Ensuring that we have this understanding of green chemistry helps us as a society better work towards the 17 key global Sustainable Development Goals outlined by the United Nations in 2015.

One of the ways to develop this understanding in scientists starts with their education. When evaluating how sustainability is incorporated into the chemistry classroom, we observe that students are not usually taught how to identify and address hazards when designing molecules. More specifically, chemists lack early training in toxicology: the understanding of what makes a molecule unsafe or unsustainable to human and environmental health. This missed training contributes to the creation of chemical products that have unintended consequences on ourselves and our surroundings.

To better integrate toxicology knowledge into the chemistry classroom, Beyond Benign – a non-profit dedicated to global green chemistry education – is designing a fully open-access Toxicology for Chemists curriculum. The curriculum is being developed by a group of key experts including professional toxicologists and chemists across industry and academia, and weaves together learning objectives from both fields for holistic sustainability knowledge. Our goal is that through the widespread implementation of this curriculum, we can continue to advance knowledge and understanding of green chemistry for more sustainable science.

To allow educators to learn more about the curriculum, we are thrilled to announce that we will be running an interactive virtual workshop at the ACS 25th Annual Green Chemistry and Engineering Conference! Specifically, we will provide a space for educators to discuss incorporating Toxicology for Chemists into their curricula, and will provide participants with the support, knowledge and resources necessary to begin this implementation. We are also excited to offer continued support and opportunities for participants beyond the workshop through pilot testing Toxicology for Chemists modules.

Our workshop moderators, Toxicology for Chemists Fellows Julian Silverman (Manhattan College), Douglas Raynie (South Dakota State University), and Barb Morra (University of Toronto), will provide examples of how to integrate parts of the curriculum into existing chemistry courses. The workshop will prioritize an interactive discussion driven by participants’ needs, questions, suggestions, and feedback.

The Toxicology for Chemists curriculum is part of a concerted effort by Beyond Benign to encourage and promote green chemistry education. Since 2013, 84 higher education institutions have signed onto Beyond Benign’s Green Chemistry Commitment, signifying their pledge to incorporate green chemistry through adopting four Student Learning Objectives. Understanding and practicing the design of less hazardous materials is a core Student Learning Objective, which can be achieved through widespread toxicology education. Our continued hope is that through these initiatives, we can encourage and educate scientists to better practice sustainability as they move through their careers.

We are greatly looking forward to building a green chemistry community through our Toxicology for Chemists workshop and invite those interested to register for the ACS GCI GC&E conference. Join us on the June 4th GC&E Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. EDT! If you have any questions, or if you want to know more about Toxicology for Chemists and Beyond Benign’s commitment to green chemistry, please do not hesitate to contact me at

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