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May 29, 2017 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 95, Issue 22


Letters to the editor

Lab safety in Cuba

I just received my April 24 issue of C&EN and enjoyed reading about chemistry in Cuba (page 34). I am sympathetic to the sad reality that their chemistry efforts have been severely impacted for many years, and resources are extremely limited. However, there is no excuse for conducting laboratory work, or even being in a lab, without proper PPE [personal protective equipment]. The article does make three references to difficulties in providing safety equipment: “Cuban chemistry students, who have limited access to safety gear” (page 35), “access to safety gear is minimal to nonexistent” (page 37), and “like at Cuba’s universities, they lack protective eyewear” (page 38). This is obvious from inspection of photos on the front cover as well as on pages 1, 34, 35, 36, 37, and 39.

I’m actually surprised to see such photos in C&EN without a suitable editorial comment. Acknowledgement that availability of suitable PPE is severely limited does not make this practice acceptable. Local leadership should prioritize outfitting those in the labs with at least a simple pair of plastic safety glasses.

Juris Ekmanis
Clifton Park, N.Y.

Editor’s note: Read why C&EN decided to run the photos on our blog the Safety Zone at

On politics and science

I read through some of the articles in your C&EN issue dated March 20. I am reminded of some issues revealed to me by my research adviser, W. D. Walters, while at the University of Rochester. While I was a graduate student, Dr. Walters showed me an article in a Russian journal that was criticized by the Russian government because its scientific conclusions did not agree with government policy. As a result, I believe the researchers were removed from their positions or they lost government funding. This was the case even though their scientific conclusions were valid and beyond reproach.

The reason I am making this point is that we should, as scientists, be very skeptical of decisions made by politicians. I am reminded of the Indiana pi bill (House bill 246) in which the Indiana legislature of 1897 wanted to round the value of pi to 3.2. We think of this today as hilariously funny, but more complex issues, such as those dealing with climate change and drugs, may slip through scientific scrutiny.

I believe that a very important job of publications like C&EN is to keep government and politicians honest. It is your duty to challenge questionable government decisions and bills. You must protect the public.

H. Robert Gerberich
Corpus Christi, Texas

Bibiana Campos’s April 17 editorial (C&EN, page 2) disparages the Heartland Institute and a book it distributed called “Why Scientists Disagree about Global Warming.” Campos complains that Heartland’s “views are conservative.” Well, I’m a conservative and I happen to like Heartland’s positions on issues. I suspect many other ACS members do as well.

Campos’s main issue is that the aforementioned book rejects the scientific “consensus” that climate change is anthropogenic and a serious threat to the planet. Campos repeats the frequently heard claim that 97% of scientists agree that global warming is a pressing problem. Had the editor read the book, she would have learned that this “consensus” is bogus and that there is, indeed, a lot of disagreement about the causes and extent of climate change. I have read the book and find that it is well documented with solid conclusions about global warming. Science is not based on consensus; it is based on evidence.

The editorial also expresses support for the March for Science, which ACS (unfortunately) decided to participate in. The march was advertised as a neutral event in support of science. It turned out to be a politicized push for funding and a celebration of liberal causes like climate change, sustainability, renewable energy, materialism, globalism, and social justice. By supporting the march, ACS has thus alienated many of its members.

It appears that ACS has joined the culture wars on the side of liberalism. Technical societies like ACS should not be participants in the philosophical war of ideas. What happened to scientific inquiry as a skeptical, objective, open-minded, and honest search for the truth?

Robert Lattimer
Stow, Ohio


May 1, page 28: Calysta can use directed genome evolution to manufacture its fish feed protein, but its current FeedKind product has not been genetically modified, as stated originally.

May 8, page 9: In the science brief on lignin, the sulfating reagent was missing an oxygen in the sulfur group. The reagent is a sulfate, –OSO3Na, rather than the sulfonate shown, –SO3Na.

May 8, page 14: PBF Energy, not BPF Holdings, is the name of the company that recently bought from ExxonMobil a refinery that was investigated by the U.S. Chemical Safety Board for a 2015 accident.



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