Green chemistry gets rolling

A change is gradually taking hold in the world of chemistry. Increasingly, chemists regard the toxicity and environmental effects of a chemical as fundamental to the process of creating it, rather than afterthoughts. “Green chemistry,” which puts this kind of holistic thinking into practice, is a growing industry. Its roots trace back to two sources. One is the growing cost for companies of cleaning up after themselves — DuPont got whacked for Teflon and Gore-Tex, General Electric for PCBs in the Hudson River, and other companies are on the hook for asbestos, dioxin, perchlorates, and plenty of others. The second is the Pollution Prevention Act of 1990, which prompted the U.S. EPA to begin offering research grants and forming public-private partnerships that encouraged the budding field. Businesses are enthusiastic about the approach as it centers on innovation rather than regulation.