Safer Chemicals Needed to Mitigate Damage From Future Spills

Feb. 27, 2023

The chemical industry needs to take a more active role in ensuring hazardous materials don’t enter the environment due to accidents, such as the Norfolk Southern derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, say the authors of an opinion piece in Scientific American.

The authors of the article, “Chemistry Urgently Needs to Develop Safer Materials,” include two leaders of a sustainable materials research center  at the University of Massachusetts and a registered nurse who serves as the vice president of occupational and environmental health at the BlueGreen Alliance, a labor organization for green jobs.

The authors state that to end disastrous outcomes from chemical spills, the chemical industry needs to develop safer and more eco-friendly chemicals, processes, materials and products. The authors suggest that current chemistries, which date back to pre-1960s, haven’t kept pace with current safety regulations.

“Although environmental and occupational health laws of the 1970s and 1980s resulted in significant improvements in chemical safety, how we regulate these chemicals assumes that we can enjoy the benefits of what was transported by the derailed Norfolk Southern train while controlling the risks. But those risks can never be fully controlled,” the authors state in their column.

The authors state that developing safer chemistries will require collaboration among academia, the government and industry. To read the full Scientific American column, click here

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