Chemists Without Borders


Monday, March 07, 2016

Huddled Masses

As I sat in the comfort of my warm bed last night, the sound of the rain pelting against my bedroom window put a smile on my face. Then I thought of those refugees who are none so fortunate. On top of what they have already lost and endured, they don't even have tents to protect them from the elements. They are, as it were, just outside my bedroom window ("with their faces pressed against the window of our affluence," as Sen. Edward Kennedy once so eloquently said) huddled in the mud and rain, men, women and children, the infant and the elderly. It's simply not good enough. What then must we do?

"The ILO [International Labor Organization] estimates that there are up to 20 million people employed in the global chemical, pharmaceutical and rubber and tyre [sic] industries today." We are a huge pool of people, many of whom are not themselves chemists but who are all connected with one another with probably six or fewer degrees of separation. I think it’s fair to say, too, that each of these us has at least 10 people in our personal circle who are unique to us. That’s 200 million educated people worldwide! Imagine what can be accomplished even if only one thousandth of us were active. The question remains, “How do we mobilize that larger community?” What are your ideas that will help these suffering people sooner rather than later?

The Power is in the Network


Bego Gerber

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Barriers To Pollution Prevention | Chemical & Engineering News

Barriers To Pollution Prevention | Chemical & Engineering News

Here's an interesting piece by Cheryl Hogue of C&EN about a study by the Environmental Protection Agency. The study finds that "many industrial facilities aren't acting to prevent the release of toxic chemicals because they aren't aware of less hazardous alternatives."


Many cite lack of information about less toxic chemicals or alternative technology.
a Includes customer demand and unsuccessful efforts to reduce pollution.   
SOURCE: EPA, Toxic Release Inventory data for 2014
Credit: Adapted from EPA

If that is true in the United States, is it also true in developing countries? If so, how might we help developing countries become more aware, and implement alternatives? All ideas welcome.


Bego Gerber

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Flint, MI

How could this happen?  How, in the 21st century, in a country that is modern, educated, and relatively wealthy, could such an atrocity occur?  How could anyone forget how important clean water is to the health of people, especially children.  How could this have gone on so long before action was taken to warn residents of Flint, MI?  How could the local government be aware of this and not do something for so long?  We often think of clean water issues as a 3rd world problem, due to a lack of education, resources, or money.  Yet here we are…

This CNN article sites a Genesee County Board of Commissioners October public health emergency declaration as saying that the water from the Flint water plant met all federal standards.  The lead was said to be leaching from service lines or solder connections due to the corrosivity of the Flint River water.

According to this article, Michigan officials ignored EPA warnings.  Previous lead poisoning incidents like that in Washington DC in 2004 were mentioned as well, so this isn’t the first time something like this has happened.   

There have also been questions raised in this article about the sampling practices used across the US for testing water and how it may result in artificially low lead readings. 

If nothing else, maybe this crisis will make people more vigilant about making sure everyone has access to clean drinking water.  It is something that we in the US have come to expect, but it is too important to take for granted.