The Pollution Prevention Act of 1990 established a national policy to prevent or reduce pollution at its source whenever feasible.
The EPA's Green Chemistry Program promotes the research, development, and implementation of innovative chemical technologies that accomplish pollution prevention in a scientifically sound and cost-effective manner.
This program provides unprecedented grants for research projects that include pollution prevention in the design and synthesis of chemicals. Many collaborations have been built with academia, industry, other government agencies, and non-government organizations to promote the use of chemistry for pollution prevention through completely voluntary, non-regulatory partnerships.
The Twelve Principles of Green Chemistry:
The huge research grants available have increased the demand for "green" chemists and chemical engineers. Several Universities, like The University of Oregon, Yale University and the University of Scranton have already established degree programs in the field and green chemistry organizations have been established.
- Prevent waste: Design chemical syntheses to prevent waste, leaving no waste to treat or clean up.
- Design safer chemicals and products: Design chemical products to be fully effective, yet have little or no toxicity.
- Design less hazardous chemical syntheses: Design syntheses to use and generate substances with little or no toxicity to humans and the environment.
- Use renewable feedstocks: Use raw materials and feedstocks that are renewable rather than depleting. Renewable feedstocks are often made from agricultural products or are the wastes of other processes; depleting feedstocks are made from fossil fuels (petroleum, natural gas, or coal) or are mined.
- Use catalysts, not stoichiometric reagents: Minimize waste by using catalytic reactions. Catalysts are used in small amounts and can carry out a single reaction many times. They are preferable to stoichiometric reagents, which are used in excess and work only once.
- Avoid chemical derivatives: Avoid using blocking or protecting groups or any temporary modifications if possible. Derivatives use additional reagents and generate waste.
- Maximize atom economy: Design syntheses so that the final product contains the maximum proportion of the starting materials. There should be few, if any, wasted atoms.
- Use safer solvents and reaction conditions: Avoid using solvents, separation agents, or other auxiliary chemicals. If these chemicals are necessary, use innocuous chemicals.
Increase energy efficiency: Run chemical reactions at ambient temperature and pressure whenever possible.
- Increase energy efficiency: Run chemical reactions at ambient temperature and pressure whenever possible.
- Design chemicals and products to degrade after use: Design chemical products to break down to innocuous substances after use so that they do not accumulate in the environment.
- Analyze in real time to prevent pollution: Include in-process real-time monitoring and control during syntheses to minimize or eliminate the formation of byproducts.
- Minimize the potential for accidents: Design chemicals and their forms (solid, liquid, or gas) to minimize the potential for chemical accidents including explosions, fires, and releases to the environment.
High school science programs are not often in a position to do research in reducing hazardous chemical synthesis. They are, however, able to reduce student exposure to and the release of "industrial strength" chemicals.
Several years ago, The Internet Science Room did two things to reduce the use of these chemicals.
- Many traditional high school labs were discarded, in favor of labs using safer chemicals.
- Even when "industrial" chemicals are required, they are used in micro labs - involving much smaller amounts of chemicals than traditional labs.
The Internet Science Room curriculum includes one green chemistry lab that is started in Biology Class and finished in Chemistry Class.