Skip to Content

Making Safer Chemicals

Instead of trying to create a more comprehensive science for generating highly functional, inexpensive and safe chemicals, the emerging knowledge about the hazards of chemicals is used to construct a vast array of professional guidelines and government public health and environmental regulations. Government agencies employ scientific tests and risk determining protocols to assess the dangers associated with exposure to chemicals identified by scientific or public concern. Once exposure to a substance is demonstrated to result in unacceptable levels of harmfulness, agencies draft regulations to restrict the use of those substances. This represents a problem-focused approach to chemicals management. It is suggested here that a parallel approach is needed that focuses less on the characterization of problems and more on the development of solutions. Such a solution-focused approach would eagerly accept the large accumulation of scientific understanding as a basis for designing chemicals that are safer, cleaner and more environmentally compatible. Solution-seeking approaches to chemical and material development would involve designing chemicals that are not only of high performance and cost effective, but also biologically safe and ecologically sustainable.