‘Father of green chemistry’ plans return to Yale

Paul Anastas, the Yale chemist who has been on leave while serving as head of research for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), plans to return to the University full time later this winter.

Paul Anastas
During his time at the EPA, Paul Anastas helped the agency deal with such environmental disasters as the radiological release from 
Japanese nuclear reactors damaged during the March 2011 tsunami. (Photo by Eric Vance)

Widely hailed as “the father of green chemistry,” Anastas will step down from his federal post in mid-February, the EPA announced in early January.

At Yale Anastas is director of the Yale Center for Green Chemistry and Green Engineering and the Teresa and H. John Heinz III Professor in the Practice of Chemistry for the Environment.

In announcing his return to New Haven, EPA administrator Lisa Jackson called Anastas “a uniquely qualified scientist and manager” and added “We are all 
fortunate he agreed to serve.”

She continued: “His integrity, judgment, leadership and
 impeccable scientific credentials were invaluable to the EPA’s efforts
 on many critical issues that range from reforming and revitalizing our chemical assessment process to providing invaluable scientific advice during environmental crises, such as the radiological release from 
Japanese nuclear reactors damaged during the March 2011 tsunami.”

In a recent interview with Environmental Health News, Anastas discussed EPA’s absorption of the principles of green chemistry:

“The most important thing is that there’s been this realization: The only reason to deeply understand a problem is to inform and empower its solutions. The EPA has a long history of understanding how toxic certain chemicals are. There’s this realization now that we can actually design chemicals and design manufacturing so they are less toxic and less polluting,” he said.

“I can point to the work that’s going on in the labs in Cincinnati developing new manufacturing processes, new synthetic methodologies and new nanomaterials, making sure that you get the new performance without the concerns and the hazards. I can point to our work at Research Triangle Park in computational toxicology, which is informing molecular design to reduce hazards. We’re doing it in our internal research, in our research grant programs to universities, and in continuing the green chemistry awards that recognize accomplishments. This is part of solution orientation: how you use innovation to generate solution rather than only quantifying the problem. There is a growing realization across EPA that this approach can meet environmental and economic goals simultaneously.”

Read the full interview.

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Media Contact

Eric Gershon: eric.gershon@yale.edu, 203-432-8555