From Molecules to Business: Better Living Through Green Chemistry

June 4, 2015
12:19 pm US Eastern Time

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Eleventh in a series of calls organized by CHE and the Boston University Superfund Research Program (BU SRP).

Many often think of green chemistry as the practice of decreasing the volume or type of solvents in the laboratory or using less electricity. While these are important, green chemistry is actually the design of chemical products and processes that reduce or eliminate the generation of hazardous substances. These hazardous substances can be in the waste stream (discharges into the environment) or as reagents in chemical processes or, as chemicals in consumer products. By thinking of the organism (humans and wildlife) as a vessel in which chemical reactions take place, it becomes clear that the use of a chemical that interacts with cellular molecules might be predicted to result in disrupting the cell’s normal function.

According to the EPA, green chemistry applies across the life cycle of a chemical product, including its design, manufacture, use, and ultimate disposal. On this call three speakers introduced the principles of green chemistry, illustrated with well-documented endocrine disrupting chemicals and carcinogens. Speakers explored using these principles to develop technologies for cleaning up hazardous wastes without creating more waste. On the prevention end, speakers addressed how many businesses want to develop sustainability plans, yet don’t know how to identify safer chemicals for use in their formulations or products. We learned about tools available for selecting alternatives or safer products and how businesses of all sizes can embrace the principles AND increase their economic bottom line.

Featured speakers

Nick Anastas, PhD, EPA, Senior Advisor for Green Chemistry, Office or Research and Development (ORD), National Risk Management Research Laboratory (NRMRL). Dr. Anastas serves as a green chemist in the Office of Environmental Stewardship at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 1 New England. Dr. Anastas holds a PhD in environmental, earth and ocean sciences from University of Massachusetts, Boston and an MS in pharmacology from Northeastern University. Dr. Anastas has over 30 years of experience as a toxicologist, environmental scientist and regulator. Trained as a pharmacologist and analytical chemist, Dr. Anastas currently focuses on advancing green chemistry by leading the New England Green Chemistry Initiative. He is a human health and ecological risk assessor and has taught quality assurance & data evaluation for regulators, public entities and at the university level. This breadth of experience has prepared Dr. Anastas to holistically evaluate environmental information to assess and design safer, healthier and sustainable products. At present, Dr. Anastas is a faculty member in the chemistry department at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. He is teaching toxicology and green chemical design to graduate students in the Green Chemistry doctoral program. Dr. Anastas has published in the fields of green chemistry and risk assessment.

BradNewsomeBrad Newsome, PhD, University of Kentucky SRP. Dr. Newsome is the 17th recipient of the annual Karen Wetterhahn Memorial Award. The award, which recognizes outstanding SRP graduates and postdoctoral researchers, was presented at the 2014 SRP Annual Meeting in San Jose, CA. The SRP acknowledged Dr. Newsome for his contributions at the interface of basic sciences, environmental engineering, and biomedicine for the larger purpose of impacting public health. Dr. Newsome received his doctoral degree in May 2014 under the guidance of UK professor of nutrition and toxicology and UK SRP Center director Bernhard Hennig, PhD. During his doctoral work, Newsome investigated how nutrition can modulate the effects of exposure to environmental chemicals as well as research to develop systems that use nanomaterials for removal of contaminants in water supplies. He is continuing this research at UK as a postdoctoral scholar and will also serve as the graduate and postdoctoral training coordinator for the UK SRP Center.

Mark Rossi, PhD, of Clean Production Action and BizNGO. Dr. Mark Rossi develops innovative programs, tools, and networks to advance the use of safer chemicals and sustainable materials. Dr. Rossi founded BizNGO in 2006 to bring thought leaders together to define best business practices in selecting safer alternatives to toxic chemicals and unsustainable materials. The BizNGO community is now over 600 individuals. Mark led the development of BizNGO's visionary Principles for Safer Chemicals. He also co-founded the Sustainable Biomaterials Collaborative (SBC) to spur the introduction and use of biomaterials that are sustainable from cradle to cradle. With SBC, Mark co-authored its Guidelines for Sustainable Bioplastics and co-led the creation of the BioSpecs - Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Specifications for Compostable Biobased Food Service Ware). Mark is the co-author of CPA's Green Screen for Safer Chemicals. He also co-authored CPA's Plastics Scorecard, a tool for benchmarking plastics based on green chemistry principles and closed loop systems.

The call was moderated by Dr. Wendy Heiger-Bernays from the BU Superfund Research Program.