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The 12 Principles of Green Chemistry

What is Green Chemistry?

The aim of green chemistry is to reduce chemical-related impact on human health and virtually eliminate contamination of the environment through dedicated, sustainable prevention programs. Green chemistry searches for alternative, environmentally friendly reaction media and at the same time strives to increase reaction rates and lower reaction temperatures.

The green chemistry concept applies innovative scientific solutions to solve environmental issues posed in the laboratory. Paul T. Anastas, an organic chemist working in the Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxins at the EPA, and John C. Warner developed the Twelve Principles of Green Chemistry in 1991. These principles can be grouped into "Reducing Risk" and "Minimizing the Environmental Footprint."

The Principles & Green Chemistry Examples

Prevention

1. Prevention

It is better to prevent waste than to treat or clean up waste after it has been created.

Atom Economy

2. Atom Economy

Synthetic methods should be designed to maximize the incorporation of all materials used in the process into the final product.


Less Hazardous Chemical Syntheses

3. Less Hazardous Chemical Syntheses

Wherever practicable, synthetic methods should be designed to use and generate substances that possess little or no toxicity to human health and the environment.

Less Hazardous Chemical Syntheses

4. Designing Safer Chemicals

Chemical products should be designed to affect their desired function while minimizing their toxicity.


Safer Solvents and Auxiliaries

5. Safer Solvents and Auxiliaries

The use of auxiliary substances (e.g., solvents, separation agents, etc.) should be made unnecessary wherever possible and innocuous when used.

Design for Energy Efficiency

6. Design for Energy Efficiency

Energy requirements of chemical processes should be recognized for their environmental and economic impacts and should be minimized. If possible, synthetic methods should be conducted at ambient temperature and pressure.


Use of Renewable Feedstocks

7. Use of Renewable Feedstocks

A raw material or feedstock should be renewable rather than depleting whenever technically and economically practicable.

Reduce Derivatives

8. Reduce Derivatives

Unnecessary derivatization (use of blocking groups, protection/ deprotection, temporary modification of physical/chemical processes) should be minimized or avoided if possible, because such steps require additional reagents and can generate waste.


Catalysis

9. Catalysis

Catalytic reagents (as selective as possible) are superior to stoichiometric reagents.

Design for Degradation

10. Design for Degradation

Chemical products should be designed so that at the end of their function they break down into innocuous degradation products and do not persist in the environment.


Real-time analysis for Pollution Prevention

11. Real-time analysis for Pollution Prevention

Analytical methodologies need to be further developed to allow for real-time, in-process monitoring and control prior to the formation of hazardous substances.

Inherently Safer Chemistry for Accident Prevention

12. Inherently Safer Chemistry for Accident Prevention

Substances and the form of a substance used in a chemical process should be chosen to minimize the potential for chemical accidents, including releases, explosions, and fires.

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