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Sustainable Fragrances 2011: the Age of Transparency

By: Jeb Gleason-Allured
Posted: July 20, 2011, from the August 2011 issue of P&F magazine.

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In 1969, when the burning Cuyahoga River made the cover of Time magazine, the modern environmental movement galvanized, leading ot the founding of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA is a science agency with regulatory authority, said Paul Anastas, assistant administrator for the Office of Research and Development, and science advisor to the EPA. As the organization's mission progressed over time, issues became more subtle, encompassing not raging river fires, but more nuanced and less easily explicable issues such as endocrine disruption and climate change. Anastas has learned over the years that "we are capable of doing the right things wrongly," such as in the case of achieving energy efficiency by using toxic substances in light bulbs, thus netting unintended consequences. And so, said Anastas, innovative thinking and design that focuses on possibilities, rather than limitations, is crucial. To illustrate, he discussed the effect of computational toxicology in lowering the toxcity of newly introduced ingredients. When applied to nano substances, for instance, this can net the application and not the implications of new technologies. Anastas added that innovative design must rely on multidisciplinary research that brings many voices to the table to define the maximum number of poassible solutions. This point of view was backed by Julie Zimmerman, Yale University's acting director of the Center for Green Chemistry and Green Engineering, who noted that 70% of the total cost of a new ingredient or process is determined at the design phase. Anastas concluded that "transparency is coming," added that industry must get ahead of the curve with green chemical engineering.

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