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Learning from past mistakes – Dioxins

“Dioxins: An Overview and History”  Hites, R. A.  Environ. Sci. Technol. 2010, ASAP.  DOI 10.1021/es1013664

One of my main reasons for drinking the green chemistry kool-aid is that I believe it allows me to still do cool chemistry as well as to contribute to building a more sustainable civilization (at least that’s the idea).  The focus, in my eyes, is on the positive things you can do with chemistry.  However, as the Spanish-American philosopher George Santayana first said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  With that in mind, this post is about one of the most well-studied mistakes in the history of the chemical enterprise, polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins (PCDDs), often referred to collectively in the literature as dioxins.  In Ronald Hites’ recent ES&T feature article on dioxins, he tells the story of the most toxic of the 75 dioxin congeners, 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (2,3,7,8-TCDD).

The most sinister aspect of dioxins, from a chemists’ perspective, is the (more…)