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Climate Change

Reactions: Showing leadership in the climate crisis, and fighting fentanyl on multiple fronts

April 30, 2023 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 101, Issue 14


Letters to the editor

How ACS can show leadership

Thank you, Albert G. Horvath, for your editorial in the March 20/27 issue of C&EN (page 2). As the future of what should be included in C&EN is under discussion, I just want to put a plug in for the huge importance of chemistry in the critical years ahead of us, as we all need to step up on climate change action. One of the very critical places will be research labs and pilot facilities, along with manufacturing plants focused on where and how chemistry can change what’s used, improve efficiency, and look at putting waste to a good end. During my time in college, the slogan was “Better things for better living through chemistry.”

Slowly, we learned the outcome was not necessarily better living. What if there were now a new slogan: “Chemistry for better living for healthy people and a healthy planet?”

I just read the article “The Leadership Superpower for Positive Change in the Climate Crisis” in a recent Forbes magazine. It highlights a conference titled One Earth, One Health, One With. It’s just an example of high-level conferences that are addressing the questions How must we change? How do we do it? And what will be better? The American Chemical Society should be out in front, as visionary chemistry certainly has a critical role to play!

I hope C&EN will take a lead in communicating important changes in the world of chemistry that are critical to reduce our negative impact on our one world.

Donna Peterson
Roseville, Minnesota

Fentanyl: A fight on multiple fronts

Print page of an article about Narcan's approval.
Credit: C&EN

I appreciated the detailed reporting by Shi En Kim about the latest development in the fight against illicit fentanyl: “Narcan Approved for Over-the-Counter Sale” (C&EN, April 4, 2023). Public health advocates have been encouraging this move in hopes that broader access to the opioid-overdose-reversing drug will lead to fewer deaths, but it’s going to take more than that to turn the tide of this deadly national crisis.

Fentanyl poisoning now holds the distinction of being the number 1 cause of death for US adults aged 18–45, according to data analyzed by the national nonprofit Families against Fentanyl. This isn’t a time for hesitation or sheepishness; we need to think big.

In February I had the honor of joining leaders from Harvard University disaster medicine and national defense experts at a congressional briefing at the US Capitol headlined by Representative Neal Dunn (R-FL). Our presentation made the case for illicit fentanyl to be declared a weapon of mass destruction (WMD). The US House of Representatives is currently considering a resolution from Rep. Dunn encouraging the Joe Biden administration to do exactly that. WMD designation would activate unused and underused federal resources to counter the illicit fentanyl trade before the lethal drug has a chance to make it to our borders.

Advances in chemistry hold hope of new ways to treat substance use disorder and prevent fentanyl poisoning. In November, the University of Houston announced what could be a breakthrough innovation: a fentanyl vaccine that would prevent opioid high, consequently decreasing the odds of symptom recurrence. In August, a symposium at the American Chemical Society fall meeting will be dedicated to the fentanyl crisis and the valuable role of chemists as soldiers in this war.

Addressing the supply and demand sides of the illicit fentanyl issue doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game. An aggressive “both and” approach that leverages the full means of US interdiction options, melded with new innovations to help individuals with addiction, is necessary to overcome this scourge—and it will save US lives.

Donna J. Nelson
Norman, Oklahoma



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