When reporters in the mainstream media write about chemicals, it’s often for all the wrong reasons.
While many other areas of science and innovation are greeted with a haloed air of excitement, throw in some words ending with the letters ‘ide’ or ‘oxin’ and people start to get sweaty palms.
This is in spite of the fact that nearly everything we touch in our modern, industrialised world is the product of some chemical concoction or another.
One possible reason for our natural aversion to the ‘C’ word is what can go wrong when these invaluable substances are accidentally released in very large quantities, or when they are so tiny, they can travel undetected into our lives.
At the larger end of the scale, history points us to horrifying events such as Italy’s Seveso disaster and India’s Bhopal to illustrate the devastating impact of runaway chemical processes on local communities.
The severity of a chemical spill can often hang on the actions taken in the short window of time after the crisis has occurred
In an ideal world, neither of these catastrophes would ever have occurred in the first place, but in our March cover story, we reveal that the severity of a chemical spill can often hang on the actions taken in the short window of time after the crisis has occurred.
But what of those miniscule agents called nanotechnology that are invisible to the human eye, that have already ventured into our skin products and are possibly even drifting into water supplies?
As the scientific world stretches to develop materials at ever-smaller scales, is there any reliable method in place for limiting the dangers they may pose to plant personnel and the wider community?
It turns out that although working with nanomaterials is no longer considered a ‘new science’, the guidelines which seek to govern their use are still in their very early days.
Fortunately, many of the health and safety lessons learned with larger-scale chemicals can also be applied to the microscopic world. Again, in our March cover story, we discuss how these are evolving, as well as investigating the methods being applied to limit negative outcomes on a much wider scale.
For a more detailed analysis, read our March cover story HERE.