The Start of an Era? in Chemical Week

March 14, 2011 - New York, NY

From Chemical Week, March 14, 2011

by Alex Scott and Robert Westervelt

For years public perception of the chemical industry has been focused more on perceived risks to human health and the environment than on industry’s contribution toward improving quality of life. Industry this year is using the International Year of Chemistry (IYC) as a platform to try to reverse this perception, and to help show how chemistry has changed the world for the better.

The official launch of IYC at recent events in Paris and Philadelphia has generated optimism among senior chemical industry executives that the sector is poised to enter an era in which its role in tackling critical global issues, including adequate food supply, potable water and solutions for climate change, will be more fully recognized. Broader public perception of the merits of chemistry will enhance the sector’s license to operate and attract future talent—especially women—into the industry, executives say.

IYC launch events took place at the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (Unesco) headquarters in Paris, and at the Chemical Heritage Foundation in Philadelphia. More activities, including those targeting local communities, are planned throughout the year.

“This International Year of Chemistry is an exceptional opportunity for us and our partners to show that chemistry will be at the heart of [the solutions] to global challenges,” Thierry Le Hénaff, chairman and CEO of Arkema, told delegates at the Paris launch.

The aim of IYC is to highlight the positive contribution of chemistry to society and celebrate 100 years since Marie Sklodowska Curie was awarded the Nobel Prize for chemistry for discovering radioactive elements and her work in the field of radioactivity (p. 38). The launch events in Paris and Philadelphia featured experts from academia, science and industry, including Nobel Prize winners and executives from BASF, Dow Chemical, and DuPont. Speakers detailed industry’s potential to help resolve emerging global challenges as the human population grows to an estimated 9 billion people by 2050, up from about 7 billion today. . . .

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