updated 10/10/2005 10:27:10 AM ET 2005-10-10T14:27:10

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has identified 12 principles behind green chemistry, the science of making more environmentally friendly products from chemicals:

  • Prevent waste: Design chemical syntheses to prevent waste, leaving no waste to treat or clean up.
  • Design safer chemicals and products: Design chemical products to be fully effective, yet have little or no toxicity.
  • Design less hazardous chemical syntheses: Design syntheses to use and generate substances with little or no toxicity to humans and the environment.
  • Use renewable feedstocks: Use raw materials and feedstocks that are renewable rather than depleting. Renewable feedstocks are often made from agricultural products or are the wastes of other processes; depleting feedstocks are made from fossil fuels (petroleum, natural gas, or coal) or are mined.
  • Use catalysts, not stoichiometric reagents: Minimize waste by using catalytic reactions. Catalysts are used in small amounts and can carry out a single reaction many times. They are preferable to stoichiometric reagents, which are used in excess and work only once.
  • Avoid chemical derivatives: Avoid using blocking or protecting groups or any temporary modifications if possible. Derivatives use additional reagents and generate waste.
  • Maximize atom economy: Design syntheses so that the final product contains the maximum proportion of the starting materials. There should be few, if any, wasted atoms.
  • Use safer solvents and reaction conditions: Avoid using solvents, separation agents, or other auxiliary chemicals. If these chemicals are necessary, use innocuous chemicals.
  • Increase energy efficiency: Run chemical reactions at ambient temperature and pressure whenever possible.
  • Design chemicals and products to degrade after use: Design chemical products to break down to innocuous substances after use so that they do not accumulate in the environment.
  • Analyze in real time to prevent pollution: Include in-process real-time monitoring and control during syntheses to minimize or eliminate the formation of byproducts.
  • Minimize the potential for accidents: Design chemicals and their forms (solid, liquid, or gas) to minimize the potential for chemical accidents including explosions, fires, and releases to the environment.

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