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Science Wednesday:Children’s Health and Sustaining Our Future

2010 October 6

Each week we write about the science behind environmental protection. Previous Science Wednesdays.

By Paul Anastas, Ph.D.

Last week, I had the pleasure of conducting a green chemistry experiment with some students who joined me at the Marian Koshland Science Museum here in Washington, DC. We were helping to kick off events leading up to the USA Science and Engineering Festival that will take place on the National Mall October 23 and 24.

The festival organizers could not have picked a more appropriate time to celebrate science and engineering in a way that will spark kid’s interest. October is Children’s Health Month, a time to reflect on the importance of building a sustainable society for our children.

There was a time when it was commonly assumed that the lives of one generation would be no different than the lives of the next—that the status quo would be maintained. Over time, however, people came to understand that we could work to make our children’s lives even better than our own.

It was advancements in science and technology that catalyzed this change in thinking. But it turned out it was not so simple. We now know that many of the same technologies and advancements that were meant to improve the lives of future generations were also adversely impacting the environment, and could even have unintended consequences on children.

Children’s Health Month is an opportune time to ask ourselves a vital question: have we incorporated an understanding of these unintended consequences into the design of new products and technologies?

Today we have the opportunity to couple our expertise in understanding the problems we face with an ability to design next-generation chemicals that reduce hazard. The principles of green chemistry give us this opportunity.

We must combine the best of our intellect and action to design a tomorrow that is sustainable for our children.  We must direct our highest degree of knowledge toward producing products and technologies that won’t impair reproduction or development.

It’s time to bring all we have to bear on the design of a sustainable tomorrow. There is no better time to start than Children’s Health Month.

About the author: Paul T. Anastas is the Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Research and Development. At the time President Barrack Obama nominated him to, Anastas was the Teresa and H. John Heinz III Professor in the Practice of Chemistry for the Environment at Yale University.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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3 Responses leave one →
  1. armansyahardanis permalink
    October 6, 2010

    Dear Sir,
    If I am not wrong, Global Disasters influence of our lives, including the children. They are eating some foods product of aura Climate Change. They are also playing and studying in uncertain weather. Perhaps this condition, in the world, more difficult than the World War II. Similarly with you, next generation more stronger than before who actually is product of WW II. Congratulations to “Children’s Health Month”!!!!

  2. vesvas permalink
    October 7, 2010

    i want to congrulate you, too. Child must love scients and this work may do it.

  3. Michael E. Bailey permalink
    October 10, 2010

    We have not yet factored into new product development the concept of unintended consequencies, at least not to any great extent. So many things we create are still patroleum based, rely on chemicals that can cause health problems, or have large carbon and/or water footprints in their manufacture use and disposal or recycling. We should look at total product life cycles and and chains of supply to develop better and more environmentally freindly products. Too often in the past, the main principle that was followed in product development was will this or that product kill more bugs or create greater crop yield; would it be simpler and less expensive to use; and if the answer was yes, it was put into production. No thought was given to environmental consequences. That is starting to change now but we still have a long way to go yet. Best wishes, Michael E. Bailey.

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