When Paul S. Anderson was in graduate school in the early 1960s, he remembers that his fellow chemists had some vague awareness that their work could affect the environment. “But it was pretty minimal,” says Anderson, a retired pharmaceutical industry chemist and former president of the American Chemical Society. In those days, chemists flushed solvents down laboratory sink drains as a matter of course, he says.
Then spring sprang. Rachel Carson published her landmark book “Silent Spring” in 1962. It raised awareness about unintended consequences of pesticides and triggered a public outcry that eventually led Congress to pass modern pollution control laws. Anderson says the book also triggered environmental cognizance among chemists. “It made us aware of the fact that things that were intended to be good might turn out to have consequences that were neither anticipated nor understood in any detail,” he says