Green Chemistry Principle 3
The third of the 12 principles says that, wherever practicable, synthetic methods should be designed to use and generate substances that possess little or no toxicity to human health and the environment.
David J.C.Constable, PhD, Director ACS Green Chemistry Institute writes somewhat cynically that the words “wherever practicable” can hand the chemist a “get out of jail free” card. He implies that many use the exemption to try to avoid the principle applying to their own work. Chemists routinely use toxic substances because they afford reactions that are kinetically and thermodynamically favourable. The reality is that until replacement chemicals with new synthetic protocols are developed, toxic materials will be used.
Professor Constable bleakly opines that, although No 3 of the 12 principles in not particularly difficult to do, most chemists are not interested. They are only interested in effecting a successful chemical transaction in a new way, in a new order or with a new molecule. So, they’ll argue that the other stuff in the flask doesn’t matter. The third of the 12 principles is about asking chemists to broaden their definition of what makes good science.
The other stuff in the flask does matter and Constable argues that chemists need to pay more attention to the choices they make. It’s easy to focus on making the desired product and forgetting the other ingredients. But this comes at a high price for people and the environment and a price that we need to stop paying.
Halo’s scientist is a committed “greenie” and a nature-lover. One of his hobbies was bee-keeping. From the small amount I know about bees, you couldn’t possibly spend time with this incredibly intelligent species and not try to leave as small a footprint as possible.
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