Issue Date: September 9, 2013
From C&EN Archives: Environment
Wearing a wig to hide the aftereffects of radiation treatments, Rachel Carson sat before a cluster of microphones in 1963. Carson, who was battling breast cancer, was testifying to a Senate committee about toxic pesticides. Her landmark book “Silent Spring” had been released less than a year earlier. She would be dead within a year.
On June 17, 1963, C&EN reported on Carson’s testimony: “New chemicals are introduced so fast that it is impossible for research on their effects on the physical environment, on wildlife, and on man to keep pace. She believes that this outpouring of chemicals is dictated by industry competition rather than need, and proposes that new pesticides should not be approved for use unless no existing chemical or other method will do the job. … She also urges the chemical industry to step up research to develop chemicals that attack specific pests and leave short-lived residues rather than to develop one super weapon that will solve all pest problems.”
Although some American Chemical Society members attacked Carson at first, in a few years ACS was addressing the environmental issues she raised. In 1969, ACS issued a report, “Cleaning Our Environment: The Chemical Basis for Action,” that covered a broad sweep of pollution control issues.
C&EN Editor Patrick P. McCurdy wrote in the magazine’s issue of Sept. 8, 1969: “Too much of what has been written about pollution has been adrift in technicalities, mired in ignorance, or tainted by political opportunism. Certainly all of us are by now aware of the problem. And no matter how you slice it, the problem is largely chemical in nature and largely chemical in solution.”
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