26 No. 5
Green Chemistry in Latin America
In 1912, Giacomo Ciamician, the founder of organic photochemistry, wrote:
“On arid lands there will spring up industrial colonies without smoke and without smokestacks; forests of glass tubes will extend over the plains and glass buildings will rise everywhere; inside of these will take place the photochemical processes that hitherto have been the guarded secret of the plants, but that will have been mastered by human industry which will know how to make them bear even more abundant fruit than nature, for nature is not in a hurry but mankind is”.1
These concepts that a century ago arose from the fervid
imaginations and fantasies of enlightened scientists, were unknown to most people. Yet today, these ideas are fully recognized and consciously encoded by Green Chemistry. In fact, Ciamician’s quote bears a strong similarity to the principles of Green Chemistry.2 Particularly, it foreshadows the emergence of nonpolluting industry, the use of renewable energy such as solar, and the need to discover how to mimic natural transformations. For these reasons Ciamician can be considered the pioneer of what today we call Green Chemistry.
Now more than ever, chemistry is the key science for “safeguarding the environment” and improving “quality of life.” For Green Chemistry to be successful, there needs to be a growing commitment from the chemical community. Governmental and national chemical organizations in developed countries have undertaken several initiatives to stimulate Green Chemistry. It is very important that similar efforts occur in less developed countries.
Latin America, which covers 20-million square kilometres (about 15% of the earth’s surface), is home to 480 million people (about 7.7% of the total world population). Latin America has the world’s largest reserves of cultivatable land, and it is also extremely rich in water resources: the Amazon, Orinoco, São Francisco, Paraná, Paraguay, and Magdalena rivers carry more than 30% of the world’s continental surface water. However, because of expanding industry, mining, and use of agricultural chemicals, these rivers are becoming contaminated with toxic chemicals and heavy metals. One of the origins of groundwater pollution is seepage from improper use and disposal of heavy metals, synthetic chemicals and hazardous wastes.
The region’s central challenge is to build a political consensus that will maintain stability and economic growth while addressing the growing social and environmental problems. Inspired political leadership and intense cooperation across all regions and sectors will be needed to put both existing and new policy instruments to work. The challenge for chemists is to increase the quality of life while minimizing detrimental effects to human health, the environment, and the biosphere.
A new book will report on the progress of Green Chemistry in Latin America. The book, which will be available in Spanish and Portuguese, describes many different initiatives in the region, which the authors hope will stimulate concerted actions among different groups. It will not cover projects in every Latin American country, but this does not mean that in those countries there is no research in Green Chemistry.
The book will have 19 chapters, which involve natural products chemistry, organic synthesis, solid catalysis, reactions in microorganized systems, photochemistry, ionic liquids, and additives for the petroleum industry. One of the chapters will address the importance of educating the public about the goals of Green Chemistry.
This book will demonstrate that the ideology of Green Chemistry has never been hostile to the research and development of Latin America countries. What is particularly important is that the book, which might be available in English, will share these innovations for the first time with the foreign R&D community.
The authors hope that the material in this book will help many researchers, students, and people who are interested in the problems of environmental protection and safety, to obtain valuable information and perspectives on the development of Green Chemistry in Latin America. The book will be published in September 2004.
IUPAC is carrying out many activities related to Green Chemistry, most of them by its Subcommittee on Green Chemistry and in collaboration with INCA, the Consorzio Interuniversitario Nazionale La Chimica per l’Ambiente which was founded in Italy in 1993.
In collaboration with IUPAC, INCA has published several books, including Green Chemistry Education and Green Chemistry in Africa, and is preparing one on Green Chemistry in the Arab Region and Green Chemistry in Russia. An important current project is to develop a coordinated Web page on Green/Sustainable Chemistry. For more information regarding the subcommittee visit its Web site listed below.
1. G. Ciamician, Science 1912, 36, 385
2. (a) P. Tundo, P. Anastas; D. StC. Black, J. Breen, T. Collins, S. Memoli, J. Miyamoto, M. Polyakoff, W. Tumas, Pure Appl. Chem. 2000, 72, 1207; (b) Green Chemistry, Theory and Practice, P. Anastas, J.C. Warner, Eds.; Oxford University Press: Oxford, 1998.
For more information contact the Task Group Chairman Pietro Tundo <[email protected]> of the University Ca' Foscari of Venice, Italy, who is also chairman of the IUPAC Subcommittee on Green Chemistry, or Task Group Member Rita Hoyos de Rossi <[email protected]> from the Facultad de Ciencias Quimicas Ciudad Universitaria, in Cordoba, Argentina.
last modified 1 September 2004.
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