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ACS issues new policy statement on chemical weapons

Society supports efforts to prevent the reemergence of chemical weapons

by Linda Wang
January 14, 2019 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 97, ISSUE 2


Credit: Courtesy of Lori Brown
Participants gather for a photo during the Asser Institute’s ninth annual Training Programme on Disarmament and Non-proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction in October 2018.

The American Chemical Society has issued a new policy statement that supports international efforts to prevent the reemergence of chemical weapons. Additionally, the society has revised four existing policy statements and renewed four others without substantial revision.

ACS’s policy statements help unify and amplify the society’s message on specific topics of concern and importance to the chemistry community, says Laura Pence, immediate past chair of the ACSCommittee on Public Affairs and Public Relations (PA&PR), which reviews policy statements on behalf of the ACS Board of Directors. “One voice can be very strong, but together we can have more impact,” she says.

ACS currently has 28 policy statements in four broad areas of interest to the society’s membership: fostering innovation through research and technology, strengthening science education and the scientific workforce, advancing sustainability and the environment, and promoting science in the public policy arena.

ACS’s various committees, with input from ACS members, develop the policy statements. Once a policy statement is approved by the ACS Board of Directors, it’s active for three years before it’s up for renewal or retirement.

The new policy statement on preventing the reemergence of chemical weapons states that ACS endorses efforts by international organizations such as the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the United Nations Security Council “to investigate and hold accountable those determined to be responsible for the use of chemicals as weapons.” The statement also calls for more research on monitoring mechanisms and urges the US to complete its destruction of chemical weapons.

“It is unfortunate that we live in a world where chemicals are used to harm individuals; having such a statement will enable ACS to be proactive in supporting policies that counter their use,” says Allison Campbell, a former ACS president who participated in drafting the statement.

This isn’t the first time that ACS has taken a stance on the use of chemical weapons. In April 2018, for example, ACS issued a joint statement with the American Chemistry Council condemning the apparent use of chemical weapons in Syria.

In addition to the new statement, four existing statements were revised to clarify key points, although the specific policy recommendations remain mostly unchanged. The revised statements are Energy Policy, Regulation of Laboratory Waste, U.S. Innovation and Entrepreneurship, and The Science and Technology of Hydraulic Fracturing.

PA&PR renewed without substantial revision the statements titled Water Treatment and Conservation, Inherently Safer Technology for Chemical and Related Industrial Process Operations, Healthcare Policy, and Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

“Just as in the lab, we’re always pushing the boundaries of what we know, and that’s true in the policy space as well,” Pence says. “Some of the statements simply get renewed because there haven’t been any big developments. Some of the statements get revised because we understand the science better, or the political landscape has changed a bit, and therefore we need to change the focus and update our recommendations.”


Pence encourages members who are interested in getting involved in ACS’s advocacy efforts to join Act4Chemistry, ACS’s member advocacy volunteer program, and sign up for legislative alerts through the Legislative Action Network. Members can also join a local section government affairs committee or familiarize themselves with ACS’s policy statements and reach out to their elected officials.

In addition, ACS organizes congressional briefings and hosts an annual legislative summit, where members of the board of directors visit policy makers in Washington, DC.

“As scientists, we often think about just staying in our labs and someone else will speak for us,” Pence says. “I’ve come to realize that if we don’t speak up for ourselves, no one else will speak for us.”

For more advocacy tools and resources, visit

Current ACS policy statements

Foster innovation through research and technology

A Competitive U.S. Business Climate: Innovation, Chemistry, and Jobs: Supports a fair and level playing field that enhances competition and stimulates R&D. Supports policies that foster the growth of small R&D businesses and encourage entrepreneurship.

Energy Policy: Endorses a policy that prioritizes energy efficiency and includes the life-cycle costs of energy sources in their market prices, including the impacts on human health and the environment. Encourages long-term orientation for funding and incentives.

Intellectual Property: Encourages policies that improve granted patents’ quality and consistency and the patent process’s efficiency. Urges policy makers to support information technology upgrades to the US Patent and Trademark Office and support sustainable open-access initiatives. Promotes consistent application of trade-secret protections.

Science and Technology in the Budget: Urges policy makers to restore investments in federal R&D funding to levels nearer to 1.2% of gross domestic product and recommends strategies to ensure federal dollars dedicated to R&D are used as efficiently as possible.

U.S. Innovation and Entrepreneurship: Supports investment in a world-class workforce through education and training, long-term commitments to basic research and technology development, and the development of a sustainable infrastructure for innovation and entrepreneurship.

Strengthen science education and the scientific workforce

Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: Supports ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and encourages international cooperation, the sharing of scientific knowledge, and R&D on assistive technologies in meeting the requirement to implement the means for equal access to medical facilities, education, workplaces, and communication technologies.

Employment Non-discrimination: Recommends federal legislation to extend employment discrimination protection to include sexual orientation, gender expression, and gender identity.

Healthcare Policy: Supports health-care policies that focus on preventive care, availability and affordability of health plans, universal eligibility, portability of health coverage across state lines, and privacy of medical information.

Importance of Hands-On Laboratory Science: Supports hands-on activities in education and explores the proper role of computer simulations that mimic laboratory procedures as a useful supplement to them but not a substitute for them.

Retirement Security: Urges Congress to reduce the regulatory complexity of 401(k) plans available to small-business owners and promote faster vesting and more portable plans.

Science Education Policy: Supports ensuring that all students understand science in accordance with national standards; modernizing learning environments; strengthening science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) teacher education programs; and nurturing students of all backgrounds, including those from underrepresented groups, in pursuit of studies and careers in STEM.

Teaching of Evolution: Fact and Theory: Supports teaching of evolution; opposes alternative, nonscientific theories; and urges states and localities to support high-quality science standards and curricula.

Visa Restrictions and Scientific Progress: Supports visa policies that facilitate scientific education and exchange and welcome foreign scholars, students, scientists, and engineers. Supports timely and reasonable screening processes for visits, greater transparency of the application process, and the issuance and management of visas that are more aligned with the purpose of academic study and scientific exchange.

Advance sustainability and the environment

Chemical Risk Assessment and Regulatory Decision Making:Supports risk assessments that are based on sound science, that are protective of human health and the environment, and that include necessary information from the commercial chemical enterprise while protecting confidential business information.

Global Climate Change: Reviews the science and recommends action on greenhouse gas reduction and climate change adaptation strategies. Encourages continued funding for research into the effects of climate change while also emphasizing the importance of educating the public on the issue.

Inherently Safer Technology for Chemical and Related Industrial Process Operations: Endorses federal support for research and development to expand inherently safer technology options and use.

Regulation of Laboratory Waste: Reviews the pitfalls of regulations meant for large-scale chemical manufacturing being applied to laboratories.

The Science and Technology of Hydraulic Fracturing: Recommends conducting research on fracking and its impacts from a life-cycle perspective, its uses compared with replacement resources, methane emissions at fracking sites, the causes and extent of groundwater contamination, less-hazardous fracking fluids, and characterization of and methods for treating and disposing of liquid returns from fracking.

Sustainability and the Chemistry Enterprise: Defines the concept of sustainability in the context of the chemistry enterprise. Supports government incentives for sustainable technologies.

Water Treatment and Conservation: Supports US government action that develops water-use guidelines and initiatives; encourages advancements in water reduction, treatment, and reuse technologies; protects groundwater resources; and prevents discharge of toxic substances into ground and surface waters.

Promote science in the public policy arena

Encouraging Americans to Support Professional and Educational Activities through Financial Donations: Supports tax deductions for charitable contributions and permanent extension of the individual retirement account charitable rollover provisions.

Ensuring Access to High-Quality Science: Supports using sustainable publishing models that provide universal access to scientific research. Supports the 10 principles outlined in the Brussels Declaration on STM Publishing, as set forth by the International Association of Scientific, Technical, and Medical Publishers.

Forensic Science: Calls for scientific rigor, high-quality education, and standards in forensic science and for its integration with the broader scientific community. Backs evaluation and improvement of forensic analytical methods.

Freedom of International Scientific Exchange: Advocates freedom of scientific exchange and stronger scientific collaboration to benefit humankind.

Peer Review: Ensuring High-Quality Science: Urges support for scientific peer review processes that evaluate grant applications on the basis of intellectual merit and broader impacts and that are periodically evaluated for process effectiveness and efficiency and for reviewer freedom from interference in scientific merit assessments.

Preventing the Reemergence of Chemical Weapons: Supports efforts to improve chemical safety and security and evaluation of alternative materials. Urges governments to prioritize actions to establish standards for responsible conduct and to prevent the use of pharmaceutical compounds as weapons. Encourages the US to continue the strong support of the Chemical Weapons Convention.

Safety in the Chemistry Enterprise: Supports the use of risk-based criteria in creating safety regulations and policies, and continued funding of research to inform policy makers and stakeholders in the creation of those regulations and policies. Supports government implementation of regulatory policies that foster innovation within a safer chemical environment.

Scientific Integrity in Public Policy: Supports the use of insightful, comprehensive, scientific, and engineering input for the development and evaluation of policy options. Encourages scientific integrity policies that help the federal government obtain and integrate scientific assessments into policy development and implementation.



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