Green Chemistry: For Our Children's Future

Every day we use or come in contact with a vast array of synthetic chemicals. Approximately 3000 chemicals are manufactured in  amounts of over 1 million pounds per year. We know from experience that many of these chemicals are hazardous to life and do not degrade. Such chemicals are classified as persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic (PBT). Landfills and hazardous waste sites accumulate chemicals and products containing a mixture of chemicals, and chemicals are also released into the environment at various stages of their life cycle (production, distribution, and use).

For example, research in 2014 has found that toxic flame retardants (Tris and PBDEs) used in furniture contaminate house dust, which then finds its way into rivers and other waterways via the household laundering of clothing containing the dust. (The sewage treatment process does not remove the flame retardants.) The flame retardants are then taken up by organisms and work their way up the food chain, accumulating in large animals such as raptors and marine mammals, as well as humans.

Green chemistry is a new approach that offers a more sustainable path in the use of chemicals and product development.

"Green chemistry is the utilization of a set of principles that reduces or eliminates the use or generation of hazardous substances in the design, manufacture and application of chemical products."

 - Paul T. Anastas and John C. Warner, Green Chemistry: Theory and Practice (Oxford University Press: New York, 1998)

"Green chemistry consists of chemicals and chemical processes designed to reduce or eliminate negative environmental impacts. The use and production of these chemicals may involve reduced waste products, non-toxic components, and improved efficiency."

- Environmental Protection Agency: Introduction to the Concept Of Green Chemistry

To ensure a sustainable future for our children we must embrace a new approach to the manufacture and use of chemicals and natural resources; our children’s health and the health of their environment should not be compromised for the sake of the indiscriminate production and use of synthetic compounds not known to be safe. Our children’s future depends on it.