Role of Chemistry in Our Society

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Role of Chemistry in Our Society

By | October 2011
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II. BACKGROUND

A. Role of Chemistry in Society
Applications of chemical science have contributed significantly to the advancement of human civilization (1, 2, 3). With a growing understanding and ability to manipulate chemical molecules, the post-World War II chemist was considered a societal problem solver. They synthesized crop-enhancing agricultural chemicals to ensure a constant and viable food supply. They played a significant role in the eradication of deadly diseases by developing life-saving pharmaceuticals and chemical pesticides. Chemists also developed innovative plastics and synthetic fibers for use in a both industrial and consumer products (1, 2, 3). The chemical industry has been a vital sector of the modern industrialized economy (2, 3). The chemical and allied manufacturing sectors in the United States employ over two million individuals. This accounts for approximately 11% of our nations manufacturing and industrial workers (4). The chemical manufacturing sector of the U.S. economy has maintained a positive foreign trade balance for the past several decades (3). Table 1 lists the high technology industries based on chemical science. TABLE 1: High-Technology Industries Based on Chemistry Science (3) CHEMICALS agricultural chemicals electronic reagents paints and solvents petrochemical feedstocks pharmaceuticals soaps and detergents MATERIALS ceramics glass metals and alloys paper plastics and rubbers synthetic fibers

In 1994, the EPA estimated that between 60,000 and 70,000 different chemicals were used commercially in the United States (1). That same year, U.S. chemical manufacturers alone produced 729 billion pounds of the 50 most highly used industrial chemicals for global markets (1, 4).

B. Chemistry and the Environment
In the past scientists concerned themselves with solving visible societal problems, such as easing poverty and disease, traveling faster, and making our lives more convenient (2). The environment was considered a...