Filtering fumes: Benefits of sustainable chemistry

There are benefits of practicing sustainable chemistry beyond simply helping the environment. Sustainable chemistry (or “Green Chemistry”) also improves the safety of workers in the chemical industry and produces safer consumer products of all types, promoting less exposure to toxic chemicals.

Chemicals end up in the environment in three main ways:

  • Intentional release during use (e.g. pesticides)
  • Unintended releases (such as emissions during manufacturing)
  • Improper disposal

Aside from affecting humans, plants and animals also suffer from contact with toxic chemicals. Green chemicals, however, either degrade to innocuous materials or are recovered for further use. 

Capturing chemical fumes in carbon filters and properly disposing of them is quickly catching on as a sustainable chemistry practice through the use of ductless carbon filtered chemistry enclosures and their more adaptable cousins, filtered fume hoods.

The design principles of Green Chemistry and engineering provide researchers with new tools that will create processes and products that ultimately are less costly, healthier and more sustainable.

Green chemistry, as the field has become known, strives to use less toxic reagents, reduce chemical waste, and increase reaction efficiencies as part of several objectives that are designed with environment preservation in mind. Those involved in the field assert that all the tools needed to achieve these objectives are already available.

“Milling and grinding is probably the second oldest trade known to man,” explained McGill chemistry professor Tomislav Friscic, describing his research in solvent-free chemical synthesis. “Ancient [civilizations] made fire by rubbing wood and stone together. We are trying to find a way to combine this milling and grinding process with chemistry.”

Although seemingly straightforward, researchers are quick to point out that achieving the goals of green chemistry is not something that can be done overnight

For a more in-depth discussion of sustainable chemistry, read the entire original article, “Making chemistry greener one silver at a time” by Howie Wu in The McGill Tribune.


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