Incorporation of Pollution Prevention Principles
Into Chemical Science Education


Pollution prevention (P2) brings cost-avoidance, enhanced public image, and a greater societal environmental ethic to modern industrial chemical production. However, "modern" chemical science curricula do not give students the multi-disciplinary analytical skills necessary to evaluate the P2 potential of alternative chemicals and reaction pathways.

The primary objective of this report is to develop a mechanism to enable chemists to compare and evaluate chemical reactions in terms of their P2 potential. The secondary goal is to demonstrate the importance of incorporating P2 and life cycle design (LCD) principles into the underlying teaching methodology of chemical science educators.

This report develops a methodology for performing chemical life cycle analyses that can be incorporated into university-level chemical science curricula. The author applies a proposed chemical life cycle framework using a case study comparing the production and use of ethylene glycol and propylene glycol-based antifreeze. He compares chemical alternatives in production, quantification of reaction inputs and outputs, energy requirements, reaction residuals, properties of reaction inputs and outputs, reaction economics, and regulatory requirements.

The results of this case study indicate that chemical life cycle analyses are useful in identifying the "trade-offs" associated with alternative chemical products and reaction pathways. However, limited data for defining reaction pathways and competing characteristics may not allow practitioners to accurately assess a more desirable choice of two or more alternatives.

The study recommends further refinement of life cycle data collection and presentation methodology regarding chemical reactions to prevent misuse and superficial analyses. Additional recommendations are suggested to facilitate incorporation of life cycle "thinking" into chemical science curricula.

This document is divided into four major sections:

  1. Extensive discussion of the historical role of chemistry in societal development, traditional evaluatory criteria for chemical reaction feasibility, and the applicable P2 and LCD theory.

  2. Summary of the concepts related to "green chemistry" and examples of relevant chemical science research from academia and industry.

  3. Multi-disciplinary framework that describes the life cycle data necessary to perform a comprehensive P2 analysis of chemicals and chemical reactions. (NPPC's related Resource List and Annotated Bibliography provide a comprehensive listing of references covering the chemical science topics discussed in this section.)

  4. Application of the framework to a case study comparing antifreeze solutions based on ethylene glycol (EG) and propylene glycol (PG). The case study is designed to illustrate the usefulness of the proposed framework in identifying the inherent "trade-offs" associated with alternative chemicals and reaction pathways.

The materials in this document provide chemical science educators with the knowledge necessary to initiate a more comprehensive study of the subjects of chemical life cycle analysis, pollution prevention, and green chemistry. In addition, this material may also serve as introductory reading for university-level chemistry students interested in research in the field.

By Jonathan W. Greene
A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements
for the Master of Science Degree.
University of Michigan School of Public Health,
Department of Environmental and Industrial Health, July 1996.
Committee chair: Stuart Batterman, Ph.D.
Committee members: Thomas Dunn, Ph.D., and Gregory A. Keoleian, Ph.D.
Reviewed by Tracy Williamson, Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics,
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
NPPC editorial staff: Rebeccah J. Kamp and Nancy A. Osborn

Partial funding for this thesis was provided by a grant from the U.S. EPA and the New Jersey Institute of Technology.

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last revised: August 24, 1998.