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What is Green Chemistry?

The Green Chemistry Program was developed by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with the goal of preventing or reducing pollution at its source, rather than having to clean it up afterwards. Green chemistry is focused on designing chemical products (and manufacturing processes) such that the use/generation of hazardous substances is reduced or eliminated.

Green chemistry dates to the Pollution Prevention Act of 1990 which established a national US policy to prevent or reduce pollution at its source.
In 1991, the EPA began awarding research grants for including pollution prevention in the design and synthesis of chemicals.
In 1993, the program was renamed "Green Chemistry" and expanded to include greener solvents and safer chemicals.
In 1995, the EPA launched the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards recognizing innovators of technologies that prevent pollution at the source while increasing commercial competitiveness.
Green Chemistry: Theory and Practice by Paul T Anastas and John C Warner (Oxford University Press: New York, 1998) is the landmark reference. Anastas, then at the EPA, and Warner, at the University of Massachusetts-Boston, identified six key tools for designing greener chemicals/processes:
1. Alternative feedstocks/starting materials (raw materials)
2. Alternative reagents (substances added to bring about a chemical reaction)
3. Alternative solvents (substances in which other substances are dissolved)
4. Alternative product/target molecule (molecule on which research is focused)
5. Process analytical chemistry (real-time measurements of manufacturing  processes for production and quality control)
6. Alternative catalysts (reusable reagents that are not consumed during the chemical reaction)
Working with these tools, Anastas and Warner developed the well-known      12 Principles of Green Chemistry. The principles provide both a strategy for developing safer products/chemical processes and the normative standards for distinguishing desirable outcomes from less desirable ones.
1. It is better to prevent waste than to treat or clean up waste after it is formed
2. Synthetic methods should be designed to maximize the incorporation of all materials used in the process into the final product
3. Whenever practicable, synthetic methodologies should be designed to use and generate substances that possess little or no toxicity to human health and the environment
4. Chemical products should be designed to preserve efficacy of function while reducing toxicity
5. The use of auxiliary substances (e.g. solvents, separation agents) should be made unnecessary whenever possible and innocuous when used
6. Energy requirements should be recognized for their environmental and economic impacts and should be minimized
7. A raw material or feedstock should be renewable rather than depleting, wherever technically and economically practicable
8. Unnecessary derivatization (blocking group, protection/deprotection, temporary modification of physical/chemical processes) should be avoided whenever possible
9. Catalytic reagents (as selective as possible) are superior to stoichiometric reagents
10. Chemical products should be designed so that at the end of their function they do not persist in the environment and break down into innocuous degradation products
11. Analytical methodologies need to be further developed to allow for real-time, in-process monitoring and control prior to the formation of hazardous substances
12. Substances and the form of a substance used in a chemical process should be chosen so as to minimize the potential for chemical accidents, including releases, explosions and fires
In the ensuing years, green chemistry has become a generic term referring to the design of safer products with reduced toxicity over the entire life cycle of the product, including an ever-expanding array of environmental impacts.
Green Chemistry Institute (GCI) of the American Chemical Society (ACS) is a non-profit organization based in Washington, DC (incorporated 1997)
Green Chemistry Network (GCN) of the Royal Society of Chemistry (RAC) is a non-profit organization based in Coventry, UK (registered 1998)
Green Chemistry is a peer-reviewed scientific journal of the RAC based in London and Cambridge (published 1999)
Green Chemistry Initiative is California's regulatory framework for toxic chemicals (adopted 2008)                                                      
Green Chemistry now commonly appears in the names of US university departments, institutes, centers, roundtables, etc (too numerous to name)

This summary of Green Chemistry is designed to provide you with an accurate, easy-to-understand overview of the topic and does not constitute legal advice. The actual standard in the original language should be reviewed and used for all business, legal, and product compliance purposes.

RSJ's awareness training is an excellent "first step" for those just learning about a regulation. Our customized training helps you understand your current responsibilities and business risks, as well as the "big picture" of where the legislation is going so that you can make better business decisions. We are here to help you!


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