Chasing Molecules: Poisonous Products, Human Health and the Promise of Green Chemistry: A Discussion with Author Elizabeth Grossman

September 15, 2010
1:00 pm US Eastern Time

Many dangerous chemicals from chemical manufacturing facilities and industrial agriculture operations around the world end up in the Arctic and stay there. Originating in Asia and southern latitudes, persistent organic pollutants (POPs) hitchhike on wind and ocean currents and accumulate in the fish, wildlife and people who call the far north home. Among those who bear a disproportionate burden of global contaminants are Arctic Indigenous peoples who depend on berries, greens, fish and marine mammals for subsistence. In addition to being exposed to pollutants from distant sources, the people of Alaska’s St. Lawrence Island are also exposed to contamination from abandoned military sites.

Author Elizabeth Grossman highlights the ongoing struggle for environmental health and justice of the St. Lawrence Island Yupik people in her award-winning book Chasing Molecules: Poisonous Products, Human Health and the Promise of Green Chemistry. With Chasing Molecules, Grossman reveals that we can do better, that we can make materials that we have come to rely on with chemicals that have been tested to be safe and are in fact “benign by design.” In a radical departure from how synthetic chemistry has been practiced, Grossman suggests that green chemistry should be used to create new materials for use in everything from sippy cups to carpets.

CHE-Alaska hosted a discussion with author Elizabeth Grossman to explore the local and global sources of contamination in Alaska and how the promise of green chemistry could help stem the tide of persistent chemicals that are polluting the Arctic. 

Featured Speaker

Elizabeth Grossman is a freelance writer and journalist based in Portland, Oregon, who specializes in environmental and science issues. Her work has appeared in a variety of publications including Scientific American, Salon, the Washington Post, The Nation, Mother Jones, Earth Island Journal, and the Huffington Post. Her most recent book, Chasing Molecules: Poisonous Products, Human Health, and the Promise of Green Chemistry, was chosen by Booklist as one of the Top Ten Science & Technology Books of 2009 and received a 2010 Golden Nautilus Award for investigative journalism. She is also the author of High Tech Trash: Digital Devices, Hidden Toxics, and Human Health, Watershed: The Undamming of America, and Adventuring Along the Lewis & Clark Trail. Grossman currently serves on the Education & Communication workgroup of the Centers for Disease Control's National Conversation on Public Health and Chemical Exposures, and has been covering the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster since it began with a focus on environmental and occupational health.