l’actualité chimique canadienne canadian chemical news ACCN
NOvember/December|novembre/Décembre • 2010 • Vol. 62, No./n o 10
Alternative Medicine: Far-fetched Fad or the Future of Healthcare?
UV Water Treatment Silver Anniversary of the Chemical Industry's TransformAtion
A Publication of the Chemical Institute of Canada and its Constituent Societies / Une publication de l’institut de chimie du canada et ses sociétés constituantes Chemical Institute of Canada
november/December|novembre/décembre • 2010 • Vol. 62, No./n o 10
10 Treating water with ultraviolet light By Gordon Knight
10 29 Departments 5
From the Editor De la rédactrice en chef
Guest Column Chroniqueuse invitée
16 14 Pharmacists, doctors and naturopaths side by side By Tyler Irving
Pour obtenir la version française de cet article, écrivez-nous à firstname.lastname@example.org
By Iva Lloyd
Chemical News Actualité chimique
Society News 21 Nouvelles des sociétés
By Joe Schwarcz
16 Silver Anniversary of Transforming the Chemical Industry By Sarah Mayes
From the editor De la rédactrice en chef
ACCN Executive Director/Directeur général Roland Andersson, MCIC Editor/Rédactrice en chef Jodi Di Menna writer/rÉdacteur Tyler Irving Graphic Designers/Infographistes Krista Leroux Kelly Turner Marketing Manager/ Directrice du marketing Bernadette Dacey Awards and Local Sections Manager/ Directrice des prix et des sections locales Gale Thirlwall
dvocates of alternative medicine — a broad term encompassing treatments that range from acupuncture to off-the-shelf supplements — might argue that conventional healthcare overlooks the big picture, that true wellness is beyond the scope of what is taught in medical school. Skeptics would ask, where’s the evidence, the scientific rigour that shows that this stuff really works? In this issue, we hear a few perspectives on what is becoming a growing trend in North America: Iva Lloyd, Naturopathic Doctor and Past Chair of the Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors makes the case for more holistic medicine in our guest column; Tyler Irving, our new staff writer, interviews pharmacist and alternative health columnist Jean-Yves Dionne for our Q and A; and of course, our own Joe Schwarcz weighs in on the debate in his back page column. Also in this issue, we take a look at UV water treatment, a subject that Gordon Knight will be presenting at the International Chemical Congress of Pacific Basin Societies (Pacifichem) coming up this December in Honolulu, Hawaii where the CSC is the host society. Knight’s symposium will be just one of some 38 symposia chaired by Canadian scientists. Finally, for the 25th anniversary of Responsible Care, we look back at how this revolutionary program began. ACCN
I hope you enjoy the read!
Editorial Board/Conseil de rédaction Joe Schwarcz, MCIC, chair/président Milena Sejnoha, MCIC Bernard West, MCIC Editorial Office/ Bureau de la rédaction 130, rue Slater Street, Suite/bureau 550 Ottawa, ON K1P 6E2 T. 613-232-6252 • F./Téléc. 613-232-5862 email@example.com • www.accn.ca Advertising/Publicité firstname.lastname@example.org Subscription Rates/Tarifs d’abonnement Non CIC members/Non-membres de l’ICC : in/au Canada CAN$60; outside/à l’extérieur du Canada US$60. Single copy/Un exemplaire CAN$10 or US$10. ACCN (L’Actualité chimique canadienne/Canadian Chemical News) is published 10 times a year by the Chemical Institute of Canada / est publié 10 fois par année par l’Institut de chimie du Canada. www.cheminst.ca. Recommended by the Chemical Institute of Canada (CIC), the Canadian Society for Chemistry (CSC), the Canadian Society for Chemical Engineering (CSChE), and the Canadian Society for Chemical Technology (CSCT). Views expressed do not necessarily represent the official position of the Institute or of the societies that recommend the magazine. Recommandé par l’Institut de chimie du Canada, la Société canadienne de chimie, la Société canadienne de génie chimique et la Société canadienne de technologie chimique. Les opinions exprimées ne reflètent pas nécessairement la position officielle de l’Institut ou des sociétés qui soutiennent le magazine.
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Guest Column Chroniqueuse invitée
Can Good Health Come in a Bottle?
aintaining health and managing disease is getting more complicated. There are growing numbers of environmental chemicals and toxins; the quality of food, water and air are questionable; social and economic factors are becoming more significant; and we are faced with new threats such as EMF and RF radiation with little understanding of their impact to health. To add to the problem, the interrelation between individuals, their environment and their health has been lost. The factors affecting health are increasing at an alarming rate and chronic disease is now the primary factor contributing to the rising health care costs. From a naturopathic perspective health and disease are logical; they happen for a reason. The factors affecting health can be grouped into the categories of lifestyle, social, environmental, external, and spiritual. Too often, in mainstream thinking physiological responses are equated with causal factors and etiology of diseases are linked to other diseases. Hypercholestemia, for example, is considered a cause of myocardial infarcts; Crohn’s disease a cause of cholelithiasis. This insular thinking keeps the focus of treatment on taking medication versus on self-responsibility and lifestyle changes. Factors such as adequate diet, breathing, exercise, sleep, clean water and fresh air are paid lip service and their importance paid little regard. Drugs are an essential aspect of health care. Yet, they are increasingly becoming a contributing factor of disease, especially chronic disease. The naturopathic approach to treatment involves using “the least force” and “supporting the healing power of the body.” Our assessment process is extensive and involves not only assessing the current status of health but also identifying the factors that are impacting it. When a patient presents with an array of non-alarming symptoms or is trending towards a lifestyle, autoimmune or chronic disease, the naturopathic approach is to address the lifestyle and other causal factors prior to medicating with drugs or at least in tandem with the emphasis being on what a patient changes; not what they take. The impact of environmental toxins and chemicals, as well as EMF and RF radiation, on health has yet to receive the recognition that it deserves. These tangible and intangible factors are ubiquitous and pervasive in the environment. They affect every physiological function
By Iva Lloyd
and organ system. Their impact includes weakening the blood-brain barrier, decreasing the integrity of the protective mucosal membranes and disrupting the absorption of needed vitamins and minerals. There is an alarming increase in patients with food intolerance, chemical sensitivities and neurological symptoms; especially in the younger population. As a naturopathic doctor, I question whether trying to find new drugs, or supplements for that matter, to address these conditions is really the right answer. We need to look at what we are currently doing through a new lens and recognize that factors such as excipients and fillers, which for the most part have been ignored, are not irrelevant and need to be addressed. Marketing is effective. So much so, that over the last 50 years many people have been convinced that health is something that can be achieved by taking drugs, and, long-term health is possible by simply addressing symptoms. The promise of the miracle drugs such as antibiotics, hormones and vaccinations has added to the irrational and disruptive belief that health comes in a bottle. Even with the increasing concern of the adverse reactions of drugs and as people are more cognisant and critical of taking multiple medications there is a desire to seek health in a bottle, whether it be a drug or a natural health product. As a naturopathic doctor half the battle is addressing the beliefs and mind-set of patients. I tell patients all the time “don’t expect health as an outcome if you don’t make your decisions based on what is healthy.” Working with patients involves teaching them how to think holistically, how to avoid silo-type thinking and decision making. It is about recognizing that long-term health and the avoidance of chronic disease starts early in life and involves making healthy choices both with respect to their lifestyle and their environment. The complexity of health can only be achieved by the various groups working together more effectively and with the goal of health in mind. ACCN Iva Lloyd is a Naturopathic Doctor and the Past Chair of the Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors.
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NOvember/December 2010 Canadian Chemical News 7
Oilsands 2011 February 22-24, 2011 | Edmonton, Alberta Presented by Held at the University of Alberta Engineering Teaching and Learning Complex
Call for Papers closes December 15, 2010 Submit abstract to firstname.lastname@example.org
Extraction: including slurry preparation, hydrotransport, bitumen separation, ore processability, froth treatment, tailing and recycle water management. Upgrading: including bitumen chemistry, low cost hydrogen production, bitumen conversion, energy efficiency, gasification, and hydrotreating product quality.
Canadian Society for Chemical Engineering
8 L’Actualité chimique canadienne
chemical News|actualitÉ chimique
BPA Blacklisted The federal government formally added bisphenol A to its toxic substances list on October 13, citing concerns about possible risk to fetuses and babies. The move makes Canada the world’s first jurisdiction to officially declare the substance toxic. The chemical, used in nearly all food and beverage cans sold in the country, has been shown to mimic the hormone estrogen. Adding BPA to the toxic substances list is the final regulatory step, following several years of study which included a ban by Health Canada of the substance in baby bottles and infant formula packaging. Health Canada, faced with pressure from advocacy groups to ban BPA from all food and beverage cans, maintains that exposure to BPA through food contact does not pose a health risk to the general population. A trade group representing chemical producers in the U.S. has opposed the ban in the past, arguing that the chemical is harmless. Two weeks prior to the listing, BPA was reviewed by the European Food Safety Authority which concluded that the substance is safe.
Methanol Back in Medicine Hat Methanex Corp. plans to restart a methanol plant in Medicine Hat, Alta., that has been idle since 2001. The Vancouver-based company said it will reopen the 470,000-tonne-per-year plant next April at a cost of US$40 million. Methanex says to support the restart it is purchasing natural gas on the Alberta market. Natural gas is one of the key raw materials used in the production of methanol. Methanol is an alcohol used as an antifreeze, solvent and fuel and is also a feedstock for making other chemicals. The company tends to idle plants when the price of natural gas is too high, or the price it can get for methanol is low. But the price of natural gas has declined in recent months, making the plant a competitive new supply source for customers, said Methanex president and CEO Bruce Aitken. Canadian Press
R&D Review Announced The more than $7 billion spent annually by the federal government on commercial research and development will be reviewed by an expert panel appointed in October by the Harper government. The goal of the panel is to determine why Canada lags behind other developed countries in innovation, private-sector research and development and commercialization. The panel will be chaired by Thomas Jenkins, Executive Chairman and Chief Strategy Officer of the software company, Open Text. The other panel members are Bev Dahlby of the University of Alberta, Arvind Gupta of the University of British Columbia, Monique Leroux of the Desjardins Group, David Naylor of the University of Toronto and Nobina Robinson of Polytechnics Canada.
Baleen Mystery Busted Lawrence Szewciw [along with] his professors at the University of Guelph has determined the physiological mechanism by which some whales effectively turn hair into bonelike baleen in their mouths. Primordial whales
were born with teeth and effectively functioned as carnivores, but about 30 million to 40 million years ago, some whale species began changing their eating strategies. They sucked in up to 68,000 litres of water — enough to fill a school bus — laden with krill, shellfish, sardines and other small foodstuff and filtered the water through coarse bristles known as baleen hanging from the upper part of their mouths. Acting as a kind of biological comb, baleen is made of alpha-keratin, a key structural material in hair, feathers, wool, claws, hoofs and horns. “It was generally believed that keratin hardened through exposure to air,” says [Douglas] Fudge, Szewciw's thesis adviser. But clearly there is not a lot of air in a whale’s water-filled mouth. While Szewciw puzzled over this fact, he noted a large amount of calcium salts in whale tissue and wondered about its function. He began searching for a connection between the keratin and presence of salt using a variety of imaging technologies. After looking at the baleen cells through transmission electron and light microscopes, Szewciw and Fudge discovered that the calcium salts reinforce the keratin and transform it into something stiffer. If you remove the calcium from whale baleen, the biological comb loses roughly half its stiffness. With this discovery, the pair turned to Guelph physicist Diane de Kerckhove to tackle a different problem. What accounts for species differences in calcium salts? De Kerckhove used X-ray emission analysis to measure the location and the amount of calcium salts in three different whale species. She found a relationship between the stiffness required in each species’ baleen and the amount and distribution of the calcium salts within the whale’s tissue.The sei whale, for example, which feeds on tiny plankton, needs more calcium because its baleen has to be finer and stiffer than that of whales that feed on larger prey. Stephen Strauss, reprinted with permission from the Canada Foundation for Innovation, InnovationCanada.ca.
Nobels Named The winners of the Nobel Prize for Chemistry were announced in October. Richard Heck of the United States and Ei-ichi Negishi and Akira Suzuki from Japan shared the prize for their work on palladiumcatalyzed cross coupling, a way of combining carbon atoms to form a stable skeleton for organic molecules. Chemists have used the idea to create new cancer drugs and improved plastics for computer applications, among other things.
NEPTUNE Dawns The final link in the NEPTUNE project — the world’s largest undersea cabled observatory — was completed off the B.C. coast this October. Consisting of five main data collection sites off of the west coast of Vancouver Island, the instrumentation is spread over the ocean floor and connected by an 800 kilometre loop of fibre optic cable. It is expected to bring in more than 60 terabytes of data over the next 25 years. The project — known in full as the North-East Pacific TimeSeries Underwater Networked Experiments — should provide biological, chemical and geological information on things like earthquake and tsunami risks, deep-sea ecosystems, pollution and climate change and the behaviour of gas hydrates. ACCN NOvember/December 2010 Canadian Chemical News 9
Chemical Engineering: Water Quality
Water In a Different Light How a small company in southwestern Ontario has grown to become a global leader in treating water with ultraviolet light. By D. Gordon Knight
How it Works
The TrojanUVPhox™ at the Orange County Water District’s Groundwater Replenishment System, Fountain Valley, California.
decade has passed since seven people died in an event that would rattle Canadians’ faith in what is easily taken for granted in the developed world: safe drinking water. In the spring of 2000, about 2,500 people, a quarter of the population of Walkerton, Ont., fell ill and seven of the town’s youngest and oldest residents died when E. coli from manure spread on nearby fields was washed into the water supply by heavy rains. Just a year later, thousands of people near North Battleford, Sask. became
10 L’Actualité chimique canadienne
sick when the Cryptosporidium parasite contaminated the drinking water. In Canada — home to 9 per cent of the world’s renewable fresh water supply — clean water could be taken for a given. But there have been significant challenges — both globally and within Canada — in maintaining the quality of water in recent years. Given a rising world population and increasing stress on the limited supply of fresh water as a result of a reduction in rainfall in certain geographical locations, maintenance of water
The mechanism for UV disinfection is absorption of UV light in the 200-290 nanometer (nm) region of the electromagnetic spectrum by a microorganism. This causes the formation of dimers (new chemical linkages) in the base pairs (building blocks) of nucleic acids, particularly adjacent thymine base pairs. This dimer formation prevents the organism from replicating their nucleic acids, and therefore the organism cannot reproduce. The amount of damage to an organism is proportional to the UV energy absorbed in mJ/cm2, and is measured by the UV intensity in mW/cm2 times the exposure time in seconds. For environmental contaminant treatment (ECT), contaminants can be destroyed in two ways. The first method is direct photolysis, by which the contaminant molecule absorbs a UV photon and one of the chemical bonds within the molecule ruptures to produce a biologically benign product. The second method uses advanced oxidation processes such as UV plus hydrogen peroxide. Photolysis of hydrogen peroxide forms a highly reactive but short-lived oxidant known as a hydroxyl radical. This process occurs according to the following reaction: H2O2 + hν → 2 OH•. The hydroxyl radicals then oxidize the contaminant molecule. For both ECT mechanisms, the toxic parent molecule is reduced in concentration to acceptably safe levels within the water, leaving behind benign product molecule(s). DGK
quality is evermore critical. For example, the city of Brisbane, Australia had a severe water shortage for over five years, and only replenished its water reservoir to 98 per cent capacity in 2010. The city has installed four water reuse treatment facilities to enable the recycling of wastewater to ensure an adequate drinking water supply. Although the most acute problem for maintaining water quality is the presence of waterborne pathogenic bacteria, such as certain strains of E. coli and protozoa such as Cryptosporidium and Giardia, environmental contaminants are also a serious threat
UV on the Ground
The amount of equipment needed to deliver the UV design dose is a function of the water quality. The lower the UV transmittance of the water, the more equipment will be necessary. When the flow through the UV equipment is not at maximum design flow rate however, then power can be reduced and energy saved. This is a result of UV dose (at least in the ideal case) being a product of UV intensity and exposure time, and if the flow rate falls in half, the dose would double above the design dose unless the power were turned down to reduce the intensity. The algorithms for real reactors delivering a dose distribution are more complex, but these algorithms are derived during bioassay validation of the reactor that examines performance under a variety of operating conditions (flow rate, lamp power level), and water qualities (UV transmittance). Similarly, the reduction of the concentration of contaminants is determined for ECT reactors. In one example of a UV-based ECT system, individual reactors are connected in series to expose the water to a high UV dose. Each reactor contains many UV lamps. These systems are capable of treating hundreds of millions of gallons per day and can be designed to remove compounds such as 1,4-dioxane (a liver and kidney toxin used as a solvent stabilizer), NDMA, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, or any other oxidizable contaminant. For example, the Orange County Water District in Fountain Valley, California injects highly treated wastewater into the local aquifer to prevent the intrusion of salt water from the ocean as water is withdrawn from the aquifer for irrigation or drinking water. This system uses a TrojanUVPhox™ system, utilizing UV light and hydrogen peroxide to accomplish a 1.2-log reduction in NDMA concentration while acting as a barrier to a wide variety of wastewater-derived contaminants. DGK
to water quality. These include nitrosamines (which have a common structure R2N-N=O). NDMA (N-nitrosodimethylamine, R = CH3) is a probable human carcinogen according to Environment Canada and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). NDMA appears as a groundwater contaminant adjacent to industrial sites. In addition, the widely used pesticide atrazine is frequently found in groundwater runoff from treated crops. Pharmaceuticals and personal care products are also suspected endocrine disrupting compounds (EDCs), which include compounds that ske w male/ female sex ratios in fish populations downstream of wastewater outfalls. A recent study by the University of Calgary has shown that at 14 of 15 sites along the Red Deer and Oldman rivers in Alberta, elevated levels of a protein only associated with female fish were found in the males that spent their entire developmental cycle in waters contaminated with EDCs. Levels of the protein were highest downstream from more populated areas. Prior to the 1980s, almost all municipal waste water was disinfected by chlorine. By the early 1990s there was a growing realization that the chlorinated compounds produced when high concentrations of organic substances are mixed with chlorine could be harmful to animals and humans. These chlorinated reaction products, such as trihalomethanes and haloacetic acids, are called disinfection byproducts (DBPs), and because of possible carcinogenic properties, DBPs are now regulated. The compound NDMA is also a DBP and can be produced during chloramination of drinking water. Today, the EPA has guidelines for the maximum allowable concentrations of chlorine and related chemical disinfectants, to limit the amount of DBPs that can be formed upon reaction of disinfectants with organic compounds. Similarly, regulations to limit the concentrations of DBPs in drinking water in Canada were formulated in the 1990s. From 1980 onwards, there was therefore a growing need to provide an alternate water treatment solution to chlorine. *** Disinfection of drinking water using ultraviolet lamps was first demonstrated in France a century ago, but until the last twenty years UV treatment had only occupied a niche market in the water treatment business. When Trojan Technologies of London, Ont. was founded
33 years ago, the science of UV treatment was sound but the risks were in establishing the business and getting and demonstrating the best engineered solutions. The company founder Hank Vander Laan noted “It’s about market acceptance, and holding out until financing arrives. I mean, you remortgage the house a second time, you start to worry because you cannot remortgage a third.” An important event that demonstrated the viability of UV disinfection for municipal waste water was the test of Trojan’s first municipal system in Tillsonburg, Ont. in 1982. The outcomes from this test were reported in the Journal of Water Pollution Control in 1984. The results demonstrated that there was a cost-effective method of eliminating pathogens in waste water that did not produce DBPs. This opened up the municipal water treatment market to Trojan, which had previously made a small UV treatment system for residential homes. Now the UV treatment market is globally significant with revenues in the hundreds of millions of dollars per year, and Trojan Technologies has the largest installed base of UV equipment in the world. The UV treatment market now consists of municipal waste and drinking water treatment (major markets), industrial water treatment for industries such as the beverage and pharmaceutical industries, residential water treatment, and municipal environmental contaminant treatment (ECT). Trojan Technologies provides UV solutions for all of these markets, and Trojan systems are used globally. New markets exist in countries such as China, which is rapidly adopting UV waste water treatment, and Africa which is gradually acquiring the water distribution infrastructure required for UV water treatment. Examples of other UV treatment companies are Wedeco (Germany) and Calgon Carbon and IDI of the U.S.A. Further, ECT has emerged as a significant market this decade. The scientific foundation for ECT has been provided from approximately 1995 onwards, for treatment of compounds such as NDMA, atrazine and the compounds MIB (methyl isoborneol) and geosmin produced by algal blooms. These last two compounds are responsible for an unpleasant taste and odor in water, which is a major consumer complaint. The scientific demonstration of the effectiveness of UV for ECT was very important in order to gain acceptance of this technology by government regulators.
NOvember/December 2010 Canadian Chemical News 11
Linde Canada is currently seeking a Lab & Gas Production Manager / Regional Maintenance Manager to join the team in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. This position is a dual role between Edmonton Spec Gas (75%) and Area Operations – Western Region (25%). Travel is required in this role as maintenance responsibilities in the Western Region will take this individual to all western production plants. • As Lab/Gas Production Manager at ESG, with solid line reporting to the Plant Operations Manager: To drive production and analysis of mixtures to meet customer and company timelines, ensure that staff have access to necessary training tools, ensure that staff have the necessary tools and equipment to perform their roles, to and develop new methodology for production processes via continual improvement processes. • As Regional Maintenance Manager, with dotted line reporting to the Area Operations Manager: Responsible for building & equipment maintenance planning and coordination of activities for the western plants (Langley, Edmonton Spec, Nisku, Calgary, Winnipeg). Also responsible for implementing minor engineering changes, working as Technical expert for the site, performing risk assessments and Hazop, MOC and assisting plant management with technical changes for productivity gains while meeting Safety, Health, Environmental and Quality requirements. The person must work independently while maintaining excellent relations with internal and external customers. Minimum Qualifications:
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12 L’Actualité chimique canadienne
Following the Tillsonburg demonstration, similar demonstrations by Trojan Technologies of the effectiveness of UV treatment solutions for ECT allowed regulatory and market acceptance of this technology. Public awareness of the possible health effects of contaminants and EDCs, aided by publication of articles demonstrating the presence of these compounds in the water system using increasingly sensitive analytical techniques, has provided an additional driver for using ECT systems. An important feature of UV disinfection is that there are no problematic disinfection
byproducts formed when water is treated using UV light. Disinfection can be used for safeguarding drinking water; and is also used to treat wastewater, so that disease causing organisms are not released into rivers or streams with an impact on recreational water users or downstream drinking water treatment plants using the same water as their source. For ECT, strong UV absorption and subsequent photochemical transformation by molecules such as NDMA make these molecules ideal targets for treatment by direct photolysis. Advanced oxidation using, for example, hydrogen peroxide and UV must
Engineering the Gear
tational predictions of performance based on combining water hydraulics (including turbulent flow), UV light emission models, and biological inactivation models for disinfection, must be validated using the empirical bioassay. For ECT, the computational predictions will involve water hydraulics, light models and chemical kinetic models of the specific ECT process, and are then validated using the ECT capability of an actual reactor system. Reactors are designed for and validated to give a target level of pathogen inactivation or contaminant reduction to meet regulatory requirements. In the example of the destruction of atrazine using UV with hydrogen peroxide, a UV lamp perpendicular to the flow of water containing hydrogen peroxide and atrazine reduces the concentration of hydrogen peroxide in the water as hydroxyl radicals are formed. These hydroxyl radicals then reduce the concentration of atrazine in the water stream around the lamp. Regions of reduced H2O2 concentration (equated with increased hydroxyl radical production) correspond to regions of reduced atrazine concentration. The time-averaged performance of an entire UV reactor can be simulated using CFD to show the time-averaged water velocity in different regions of the reactor, UV lamp irradiation intensity in different regions of the reactor and time-averaged destruction of a contaminant in the different regions of the reactor. Simulations provide valuable insights into the design and operation of the UV reactor. Contaminant reduction is a function of UV dose, calculated by multiplying intensity by time. Therefore, the lamps are placed such that the high water velocity regions with short exposure times are adjacent to the high UV intensity regions around the UV lamps. The maximum amount of water is therefore exposed to as uniform a UV dose as possible. The contaminant concentration quickly drops to a low value as the water passes through the reactor. These simulations allow changes to be made to the design of the reactors to maximize performance.
Intense UV light sources in the 200-290 nm wavelength region are needed for disinfection and environmental contaminant treatment (ECT) and are available using low pressure mercury lamps which emit at 254 nm, and medium pressure mercury lamps which emit throughout the entire UV region of the spectrum. Low pressure lamps are highly efficient with an electrical efficiency of approximately 40 per cent, and medium pressure lamps are somewhat less efficient at between 13 per cent and 17 per cent efficiency, but are ten times as intense as a low pressure lamp, and allow a compact technology with fewer lamps to be used where space is limited. The UV dose received by the organisms or contaminants is monitored through algorithms that use information from UV intensity sensors, water quality (UV transmittance) monitors, and flow rate monitors. Monitoring is critical to ensure that the required design dose is maintained during water treatment. Water passing by the UV lamps will receive different doses of UV light depending on the individual trajectory through the treatment reactor, with the result that a reactor will deliver a dose distribution rather than a single dose. The dose distribution can be described by a single UV dose value, which describes the UV dose from an ideal UV reactor that has the same microbe inactivation effect. In the absence of knowing the dose distribution, reactors are validated using a process called bioassay validation. For bioassay validation, an ideal laboratory reactor can be operated to give single UV doses and produce a given inactivation level of the organism being tested. This UV dose is then assigned to a non-ideal reactor delivering a dose distribution, when the non-ideal reactor produces the same inactivation level of microbes. Reactors are carefully designed using tools such as computational fluid dynamics (CFD) that can be used to determine the dose distribution, and therefore to predict the bioassay equivalent dose delivered under any operating condition. For ECT, computational predictions of the effectiveness of destruction of contaminants can be made. The compu-
be used to treat other contaminants such as pesticides and pharmaceutical compounds that are either poor UV absorbing compounds and/or do not readily undergo photochemical transformations. ECT using UV and hydrogen peroxide that proceeds through the hydroxyl radical does not produce the bromate ion (BrO 3- ) byproduct from the bromide ion in the water. This is a significant advantage over ozonation, another common method to oxidize chemical contaminants, since bromate is considered carcinogenic at concentrations greater than 0.05 ppb. Increasingly, municipalities are turning to UV to ensure the safety and quality of their water, and to restore public confidence in their water supplies. The use of UV disinfection effectively prevents the spread of harmful organisms in the water supply without producing the problematic disinfection byproducts of chlorine. The use of multiple disinfectants as part of a multiple barrier strategy for public health protection provides increased protection against pathogens, with the added benefit of reduced DBPs. Environmental contaminant treatment using UV and hydrogen peroxide is an effective barrier to a variety of potentially harmful contaminants. Commercial systems currently in the field reduce concentrations of NDMA to levels less than 2 parts per trillion. Engineering tools such as CFD analysis of UV water treatment systems allow optimization of the performance of UV reactors. The role of UV water treatment continues to increase with increasing stress on the world’s supply of fresh water. ACCN Gordon Knight is the Research Operations Manager and Photonics Leader at Trojan Technologies in London, Ont. He will be leading a symposium on the subject of water disinfection and environmental contaminant treatment using ultraviolet light at the International Chemical Congress of Pacific Basin Societies (Pacifichem) taking place this December 15 – 20 in Honolulu, Hawaii where the CSC is the host society. Some 38 other symposia will be chaired by Canadian scientists. Go to www.pacifichem.org/symposia for more information.
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NOvember/December 2010 Canadian Chemical News 13
Q & A with Jean-Yves Dionne
Striking a Balance
Canada’s unique approach to alternative medicine is beginning to allow naturopaths, pharmacists, and doctors to practice side by side. By Tyler Irving
ACCN: In Canada, Natural Health Products (NHPs), such as St. John’s wort, gingko biloba, omega-3 pills, etc. are available over the counter. Can these products act as replacements for conventional pharmaceuticals? JYD: You have to approach it on a case-by-case basis. Some NHPs are very useful and will do what they say they do. For instance, omega-3 oils from fish are very effective at treating inflammation. But you also see omega-3 in flaxseed oil, and that won’t do anything for inflammation. That’s where you get stuck in the lingo. You have some good science, but you also have a lot of people surfing on that. They don’t have the actual product, but rather some look-alike, and they can do that because NHPs are not patented.
hatever your take on alternative medicine, its presence in Canada is undeniable. Grocery and drug stores feature aisle upon aisle of natural health products (NHPs) with various claims as to their abilities and efficacy. Some are based on sound science, others are a bit more vague. Jean-Yves Dionne has spent years trying to sort out the wheat from the chaff. He is a pharmacist, educator, and scientific advisor for several companies and professional organizations. He’s also the Alternative Health columnist for RadioCanada. ACCN spoke with him to find out how Canada’s treatment of alternative practices is evolving.
ACCN: When and why do patients choose alternative treatments over conventional pharmaceuticals? JYD: There are some health issues where conventional medicine doesn’t have the answers. For instance, in many chronic diseases, patients are looking for wellbeing, but instead they have only medication to suppress the symptoms. There are also conditions for which we don’t have satisfactory treatments with medicines. For instance with heart disease, it’s well-documented that we can work with lifestyle, with diet, with stress management, and if it’s done properly, heart disease will actually regress. That’s something that medicine alone can’t do. In the last few years, we have begun to see progress with other diseases. For instance, in the prevention of colon cancer using certain prebiotic fibres, probiotics (bacteria), and herbs such as turmeric. The data is not as strong as with medication, yet some people are willing to go that way, and we do see results. In addition to that, a lot of people are looking to find ways to improve their own health and to take charge. They’re tired of seeing the doctor for five to seven minutes and being told they’re not sick, because the tests are negative. The conventional approach may be factual, but it’s not human.
14 L’Actualité chimique canadienne
ACCN: Is there evidence that NHPs are effective at treating specific illnesses or conditions? JYD: It’s hard to make a general rule, and that’s where most people get stuck. There is not a lot of evidence. You have to look between the lines. For instance, let’s go back to prebiotic fibres and colon cancer. There has been a lot of contradictory data on the role of fibre in colon cancer. But if you refine your search to prebiotic fibre, you see from both animal models and humans that this leads to a dramatic change in the environment of the colon. You have less inflammatory conditions, and in the animal model, reversal of polyps and crypt foci, which are the precursors of cancer. Of course, if you have a lump that is six inches wide, forget it, but in the earlier stages, by looking at that and not negating classical treatment, you increase the chance of survival. There are some animal data that are very convincing, and we are starting to see human data, but so far only in the surrogate markers of cancer, not in the hard endpoint. ACCN: Are these NHPs tested for efficacy in the same way that pharmaceuticals are? JYD: Some claims are only traditional, but if a claim appears on the label of a product that is sold in Canada, it's based on science. The problem that you have is the test is not done on the actual end product that you have in your hand. Instead, it’s done on the active ingredient. Health Canada comes up with a monograph and if a manufacturer follows the monograph, he or she can make claims, because the data is strong enough to support them. Products that have a Natural Product Number (NPN) on the label have been through this review process by Health Canada’s Natural Health Product Directorate. For example, in the case of fish oil, there is a monograph, so manufacturers have to be very careful what they say on the label because it must
be approved before it goes on the market. It’s very similar to the situation for a generic drug. Those companies don’t do clinical trials on their products, because they’ve based them on one that has already been approved.
ACCN: Canada’s official act regulating NHPs came into effect in 2004. Does Canada stand apart in its approach to regulating these products?
ACCN: Pharmaceuticals are often derived from plants or other natural sources. What’s the difference between the NHP version and the pharmaceutical version?
JYD: Absolutely. Years ago, a product was either a food or a drug. But
JYD: If you want to go to the root of the difference between a natural product and a pharmaceutical product, it’s the notion of patent. Pharmaceutical companies will not invest into something that does not provide a return on that investment, and NHPs are not patentable. It’s one of the reasons why it’s so difficult to find hard data on the efficacy of NHPs. No one is going to invest 15 million dollars to do clinical trials when they know that as soon as it’s proven, there will be a zillion companies putting the same thing on the market. As an example, resveratrol, isolated from red wine, is a very promising product for a lot of conditions, including cancer. I know one company that looked at it, started a study, and then pulled the plug because they couldn’t modify the compound to make it patentable. One thing is certain; NHPs may not be as effective, but if they are sold in Canada, they have to be safe. You cannot, from a legal point of view, authorize an over-the-counter (OTC) product with a high toxicity. That’s the situation with digoxin, which is a glycoside from a herb called foxglove. It is a natural compound with no modifications, but it’s too toxic to be sold as a natural health product, so it’s classified as a pharmaceutical. ACCN: Another common worry about pharmaceuticals is that by mixing different drugs, patients can inadvertently harm themselves. Is this danger potentially aggravated for alternative medicines, given their OTC nature? JYD: It may be. For instance, St. John’s Wort can interact with a lot of medications and cause very dramatic problems. But that’s also true for grapefruit juice. Grapefruit juice will inhibit an enzyme called cytochrome p 450 3A4, and because of that it may interact with medications. It’s a food, not a natural product or medication, but it does have a biological effect that you have to take into account, and a good pharmacist should do that. ACCN: What has been the reaction to the rise of alternative medicine among conventional doctors? JYD: It’s a mix. In Canada, naturopaths are recognized by 7 out of 10 provinces. Here in Quebec, naturopaths are not recognized, for what I’ll call historical reasons. The Collège des médecins du Québec has never allowed for alternative medicine. Physicians usually don’t like naturopaths here because anyone can call themselves one. Still, it thrives. If you don’t recognize it, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. In Ontario, naturopaths are recognized, and there is a naturopathic college that provides a known curriculum. Doctors may or may not like it, but at least the province is able to control the minimum level of knowledge. As for NHPs, those are federally regulated. Health Canada is responsible for determining what products can be sold. However, the provinces are responsible for how it’s sold and who sells it.
what do you do if you have a valerian tincture? You don’t put that on your toast in the morning, but it was still considered a food. Now, we’re the only country to make a third category that is not a food, nor a medication, but something in between. In Germany, if a product comes with a health claim, it’s a pharmaceutical, whether it’s naturally sourced or not. In France, their threshold was not in the origin of the compound but the dosage; above a certain dosage, products are considered medications and sold in pharmacies, below that they are considered food and sold in grocery stores. In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) came up with a system in 1994 that allowed manufacturers to make claims based on structure, but said nothing about quality control or proof of efficacy. They have changed, and from the Canadian model, they’re starting to implement quality control, which is totally new and very important.
ACCN: Alternative medicine is a very broad term, and while some alternative treatments are gaining more acceptance, there will always be quackery out there. How do you separate the good science from the pseudo-science? JYD: That’s the story of my life! There are ways to recognize good and bad science. One thing you can do is to sniff out the agenda behind the study. It’s not surprising to find out that a strongly negative study is funded by a competitor. On the other hand, if you talk about physical practices rather than products, it’s much harder. You have to rely on reputation, on where they’ve been taught, on what kind of school is backing up their claims. You need to have a healthy amount of scepticism. But you also must not close the door. If there’s no proof of efficacy, that doesn’t necessarily mean there’s no efficacy at all. It could mean the study has not yet been published. When it comes to individual practitioners, reputation and your instinct as a consumer is really all you have.
ACCN: What do you think will be the big trends in alternative medicine over the next 10 to 20 years? JYD: From the products perspective, I think you will find many more evidence-based natural products on the market. Technology is improving, understanding is increasing, and all this new knowledge is applied not only to pharmaceuticals and the medical field, but anything related to life science. In India, a lot of work is aimed at validation of traditional medicine. One of the problems in a country like that is a lack of money for health care. So they look at the old texts, and the practitioners in the streets, and validate that with today’s technology, tweak it if it needs to be, and put it back in the hands of healers. In this way they have some level of control over the quality of the practitioners. The dark side of the same thing is that people will use the same aura of science and credibility, and push wacky products. You see that with what are called superfruits; marketing companies are very good at it. There will always be people trying to make a quick buck, but I think there’s a deep wave of more credibility and more science to come in the next 10 or 20 years. ACCN NOvember/December 2010 Canadian Chemical News 15
CHEMISTRY: industry:XXXXX responsible care
In the mid 1980s, faced with growing public mistrust, intensifying pressure for stricter regulation and a real concern that its public license to produce was at risk, the Canadian chemical industry responded with what has become one of the largest and most successful performance initiatives put forward by any sector. Twenty-five years later, the idea continues to evolve: public mistrust of the industry has shifted from plant operations and movement of chemicals to sustainability and climate change, and the Canadian-born initiative is taking its cue. By Sarah Mayes
A chemical plant in Oakville, Ont.
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wenty-five years ago, Canadian companies [that produced chemicals] behaved a lot differently than they do today. They set up plants in communities, built fences around them and kept tight-lipped about what went on behind the chain-link. But by the early 1980s, company executives became concerned that they might lose their licences to operate in Canada. Pressures to regulate the industry were growing, galvanized by the 1979 derailment of a hazardous-materials train in Mississauga that caused the evacuation of Canada’s fifth-largest city. “The leaders of the chemistry industry found themselves at a difficult crossroads,” says Jean Bélanger, former president of the Chemistry Industry Association of Canada (then known as the Canadian Chemical Producers’ Association). “The normal way forward would have been for the industry’s CEOs to engage with regulators on a case-by-case basis. But in the end, that would have totally sapped the industry’s ability to develop its economic potential.” Fortunately for the industry, its leaders chose a different path. They zeroed in on the root of their problem: the public did not trust [chemical producers]. “The public believed that we were more concerned about profits and secrecy than about our employees, neighbours and customers,” says Brian Wastle, who worked as a plant manager in the 1980s and is now the association’s vice president of Responsible Care.
Jean Bélanger — The Godfather Jean Bélanger was president of what was then known as the Canadian Chemical Producers Association (CCPA) from 1979 to 1996, and is often referred to as “The Godfather” of Responsible Care. While others philosophized about the initiative and drafted its principles and codes, Bélanger worked to translate the concept of Responsible Care into something that association members would buy into. “Jean would often talk about Responsible Care in railway terms,” says Brian Wastle, who assumed the position of vice president of Responsible Care while Bélanger was president. “He’d say: ‘Your job is to make sure the train gets to the next station. My job is to make sure there are still passengers on the train.’ If it weren’t for Jean’s care, wisdom and political savvy, I doubt Responsible Care would have had the industry support that it needed to work.” Bélanger is credited with guiding Responsible Care to international acceptance; it’s now practised in more than 50 countries around the world.
“Incidents happened that got away from us. The government was threatening to regulate us. So ultimately, the industry was looking for a way to move from that victim complex to becoming a master of its own destiny.”
A culture shift Over the years, the industry had, for the most part, lived up to the expectations of existing laws and regulations; but it had also worked to prevent new ones from being created. However, by the early 1980s, it was clear that building public trust would require something above and beyond the law: a commitment to doing the right thing. Moreover, being seen to be doing the right thing would be essential to building and maintaining that trust. Committing to this principle would radically change the way the industry operated — from companies that focused on regulatory compliance, to ones that were ethically oriented. “Initially there was a lot of grumbling,” says Bélanger. “I remember one board meeting where one of our CEOs asked why we needed an environmental and safety initiative like Responsible Care in the first place. He said, ‘How much is this going to cost? Why should we take on more responsibility than we have to? We’re already meeting the law.’ “I remember David Buzzelli — who was president of Dow at the time — piped up and said, ‘What you’ve just said is totally irrelevant. We expect you to meet the law — that’s the minimum. The real question is: are you doing the right thing?’ And I think that’s when it became crystal-clear in everyone’s minds what Responsible Care was about.” By 1983, the concept of “doing the right thing” was put on paper; the association published its Statement of Guiding Principles, outlining how companies should manage their safety, health and environmental obligations. After receiving full endorsement by the
board of directors, all association members signed the policy statement, which became a condition of membership. Between 1985 and 1988 the first Responsible Care codes were developed — their writing accelerated by the industrial disaster in Bhopal, India, which underlined the need for stringent guidelines on the safe and environmentally sound management of chemicals. The Community Awareness and Emergency Response code was the first to be drafted. “Before it went to the board for final approval, we had it reviewed by a group of environmentalists and other stakeholders,” Bélanger recalls. “The response we got was pretty interesting. They said, ‘You’ve got so many weasel words in here. This is pretty meaningless.’ So needless to say, we revised it.” Feedback from environmentalists also informed the writing of the next five codes: Research and Development, Manufacturing, Transportation, Distribution, and Hazardous Waste Management. In total, the association spelled out more than 150 requirements, controlling each step in a chemical’s life cycle — “from the cradle to the grave”, as Bélanger was known to say.
The plant gates are opened Initially, the fact that the industry’s CEOs had pledged to meet the Responsible Care ethic and codes meant little to the public and the industry’s critics. From the outset, those groups had chalked Responsible Care up to a public relations exercise. For that reason, the association took a critical step towards greater transparency: establishing a National Advisory Panel, composed of activists and others outside the chemistry industry, to challenge its companies to improve their performance. In 1993, the association went a step further by introducing the Responsible Care
public verification process; teams of public advocates, neighbours and industry experts ventured behind plant gates to verify that member-companies were living up to their promises. In addition, Responsible Care emissions reporting began in 1992, with companies publicly reporting their emissions of hundreds of substances. These initiatives had the effect of both enhancing Responsible Care’s accountability and credibility, but also of improving member-companies’ environmental and safety performance. “The third-party review process was critical to building trust,” says Bélanger. “Just because a company says they’ve met the Responsible Care codes, why should the public — or the association, for that matter — believe them? This really helped the industry match its words with its actions. If a company’s performance wasn’t living up to our expectations, we knew about it, and had what we needed for some effective peer pressure.”
From philosophy to hard facts According to Bélanger, the results of membercompanies implementing Responsible Care’s ethic and principles weren’t seen overnight. Rather, the initiative began to bear fruit over a period of 10 years. “You have to recognize that you can’t impose an ethic on people. You can impose regulations, but with an ethic, there has to be a buy-in, which takes time. So we gradually moved ahead with Responsible Care … It was an evolutionary process. It became a way of life for companies — one that’s still evolving today.”
Brian Wastle — The Preacher After working at Dow Chemical for 25 years as a process engineer, site manager and business director, Brian Wastle was named as the CCPA's vice president of Responsible Care in May of 1991. “Brian is the soul and conscience of Responsible Care,” says Richard Paton, President and CEO of the association. “He’s the guy that we rely on to push us and to ask us whether we’re doing the right thing. “I think, for Brian, Responsible Care is close to a religion, and anyone who is new to the association — whether they’re staff or new members — will be personally indoctrinated by him.” Wastle oversaw the creation of Responsible Care’s public verification process, the establishment of emissions reporting, and most recently, the development of the initiative’s new ethic and principles for sustainability, as well as the Responsible Care Commitments.
NOvember/December 2010 Canadian Chemical News 17
CHEMISTRY and CHEMICAL BIOLOGY Tenure-Track Assistant Professor Position in Analytical Chemistry The Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at McMaster University solicits applications to fill a tenure-track position at the rank of Assistant Professor in the area of analytical chemistry, effective July 1, 2011. Applications are encouraged in all areas of analytical chemistry, particularly in bioanalytical chemistry. Scientists with research interests that have applications in the biosciences, biointerfaces, environmental science and materials/nanoscience areas are encouraged to apply. Our aim is to enhance interdisciplinary science at McMaster, a university with a longstanding history of collaborative research initiatives. In addition to having access to the equipment and facilities in this department, the successful candidate will also have access to the facilities in the Brockhouse Institute for Materials Research, the Canadian Centre for Electron Microscopy, the Centre for Microbial Chemical Biology and the soon-to-be-completed Biointerfaces Institute; the latter three facilities each house $15-20M worth of equipment. Information about and links to major facilities at McMaster can be viewed at http://www.chemistry.mcmaster.ca/facilities. Applicants should clearly demonstrate potential to develop a prominent, externally funded research program and to be committed to excellence in teaching at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Candidates must have a doctoral degree in chemistry, or a closely related field, postdoctoral experience and a promising record of research scholarship and productivity. Application materials must include a cover letter, curriculum vitae, a statement of teaching interests, and detailed descriptions of at least three research projects that exemplify your proposed research program. Please include a listing of the major instrumentation and equipment necessary to pursue each project. Review of applications will begin after November 15, 2010 and will continue until the position is filled. Please send these materials and arrange for three letters of recommendation to be sent to:
Dr. Brian E. McCarry, Chair, Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, McMaster University, 1280 Main Street West, Hamilton, Ontario L8S 4M1 CANADA
All qualified candidates are encouraged to apply; however, Canadian citizens and permanent residents will be given priority. McMaster University is strongly committed to employment equity within its community, and to recruiting a diverse faculty and staff. The University encourages applications from all qualified candidates, including women, members of visible minorities, Aboriginal persons, members of sexual minorities, and persons with disabilities.
The Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Science and Engineering invites applications for a tenure-stream appointment at the Assistant Professor level to commence July 1, 2011 in the areas of Materials Chemistry or Medicinal Chemistry. Of particular interest would be an individual whose research is related to environmental aspects of Organic Chemistry, development of alternative energy sources or environmentally friendly technologies (“Green Chemistry”). Further information about the Department and the University can be found at our website: www.chem.yorku.ca. The successful candidate will have a PhD in Chemistry, post-doctoral experience in a relevant area, an outstanding research record and must be eligible for prompt appointment to the Faculty of Graduate Studies. The successful candidate should show excellence or promise of excellence in teaching and in scholarly research and publication. The successful candidate will be expected to develop a strong, externally-funded research program and to contribute to teaching Organic Chemistry at the undergraduate and graduate levels. All York University positions are subject to budgetary approval. York University is an Affirmative Action Employer. The Affirmative Action Program can be found on York's website at www.yorku.ca/acadjobs or a copy can be obtained by calling the affirmative action office at 416-736-5713. All qualified candidates are encouraged to apply; however, Canadian citizens and Permanent Residents will be given priority. Applications must be received by December 1, 2010. Please mail curriculum vitae, a detailed research plan, a description of teaching philosophy, summary of research publications, and have three references sent directly to: Chair, Search Committee Organic Chemistry, Department of Chemistry York University, 4700 Keele St., 124 CB Toronto, Ontario M3J 1P3 Fax: 416-736-5936 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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The Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Science and Engineering, invites applications for a tenure-track faculty position in Mass Spectrometry at the Assistant Professor level. York University, a leader in regional innovation networks that draw together industry and academic research, is promoting excellence in strategic and interdisciplinary research initiatives that advance and complement existing faculty expertise in Organized Research Units such as the Centre for Research in Mass Spectrometry (CRMS). The University is well placed for such initiatives as it is situated close to strong medical, pharmaceutical and industrial sectors. The successful candidate will have a PhD, relevant postdoctoral experience and an outstanding research record using modern mass spectrometry techniques, and is expected to develop an innovative and vigorous research program that takes advantage of York University’s strategic location. The successful candidate also will be expected to contribute to teaching Chemistry at the undergraduate and graduate levels, be eligible for prompt appointment to the Faculty of Graduate Studies, and reinforce and advance the mandate of CRMS. All York University positions are subject to budgetary approval. York University is an Affirmative Action Employer. The Affirmative Action Program can be found on York's website at www.yorku.ca/acadjobs or a copy can be obtained by calling the affirmative action office at 416-736-5713. All qualified candidates are encouraged to apply; however, Canadian citizens and Permanent Residents will be given priority. Please mail a detailed research plan, a description of teaching philosophy, a curriculum vitae including a summary of research publications, and have three references sent directly to: Chair, Mass Spectrometry Search Committee Department of Chemistry, Room 124 CB York University, 4700 Keele Street Toronto, Ontario M3J 1P3 FAX: 416-736-5936 | E-mail: email@example.com Complete applications must be received by December 1, 2010. The position will be available July 1, 2011.
By the early 1990s, the association began collecting data that clearly illustrated that Responsible Care worked. Workplace safety records showed a dramatic improvement (In 2008, member-companies reported 1.19 injuries or illnesses for every 100 employees, versus 3.2 in 1990.) and member-companies substantially reduced their environmental footprints (to date, overall emissions have decreased by 87 per cent). The Canadian Responsible Care model was deemed such a success that it was adopted by dozens of countries across the world — a global movement now overseen by the International Council of Chemical Associations. However, Wastle says the real evidence of Responsible Care’s effectiveness was less easily quantified. “Pride I would say was the number one indicator. It sounds cliché, but people would actually get tears in their eyes when they spoke about their commitment to Responsible Care … It’s because they no longer had to park their ethics at the plant gate. They could be proud of the work they did, and companies began to hear that in the feedback they received from their plant communities.”
The sustainability commitment With public attitudes about the chemistry industry slowly changing, the association’s member-companies spent the better part of two decades focused on their performance: setting goals, monitoring their environmental and safety records, and making any necessary improvements. But as Responsible Care neared its 25th anniversary, pressure began mounting to update the initiative. “The existing Responsible Care Codes of Practice had essentially remained unchanged for over two decades,” says Wastle. “Even though these codes were still delivering improvements to the health, safety and environmental performance of chemical companies, people’s expectations were growing higher. Our members began asking whether Responsible Care was equipped to address a wave of public concern around issues like health, climate change, conservation and our environmental footprint.” “I remember I was at our June 2007 board meeting where those concerns really came to a head,” says Richard Paton, President and CEO of the association. “At our dinner, several executives were saying that they didn’t feel like environmental
Bob Boldt — The Safety Guru Responsible Care as it’s known today has at least some underpinnings in the work of Bob Boldt, former vice president of Dow Chemical Canada and chair of the association’s Technical Management Committee. In 1981, Boldt spearheaded his own project at Dow called Responsible Care/Product Stewardship, which encouraged Dow employees to, in his words, “discipline [themselves] to operate the plants the way they were supposed to be operated.” “Bob had an incredible passion for safety,” says Brian Wastle, Vice-President of Responsible Care, who worked at Dow Chemical with Boldt in the 1980s. “If there was an ungrounded cord on the kettle in our plant’s lunchroom, that concerned Bob as much as our process safety did.” As the idea of Responsible Care germinated within the CCPA’s membership, Boldt was tasked with being the first to pitch it to the association’s board of directors in 1981. It did not go well. “Either they didn’t understand it or I didn’t describe it well, but [it] was not approved ... Probably because it meant a change in the way management had historically managed,” he said in an interview in 1997. Still, Boldt’s presentation served as the foundation for the more detailed set of Responsible Care codes eventually approved by the board some four years later.
leaders any more. Then, the next morning, Larry MacDonald, who was chair of the board at the time, walked in and presented me with a hand-written piece of paper, basically outlining the direction that they wanted to take with Responsible Care. They wanted to review the principles and weave sustainability right into the fabric of Responsible Care. I just looked at it and said, ‘Fantastic.’” The three-year process of revamping Responsible Care began. First, the Ethic & Principles for Sustainability were developed and eventually endorsed by the association’s Board of Directors in February 2008. Next, three streamlined codes of practice — Operations, Stewardship and Accountability — were drafted and given final board approval in June 2010. “The motor that drove all of this was the company executives,” says Paton. “They were the ones who recognized that Responsible Care had to evolve. They saw that what we had done in 1985 was 100 miles ahead of everyone else, but three years ago we were only holding on to that lead by five or 10 miles. The public expected us to think and act in a sustainable way, and we had to align ourselves with that.” Paton points out that Responsible Care’s shift towards sustainability will mean ever-more stringent standards for membercompanies to live up to. “What I find remarkable is that everyone just thought this was the right thing to do,” he says. “Responsible Care was already considered the ‘gold standard’ of environmental and safety initiatives, but nobody said, ‘If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.’ To me, that just proves how our members are ready to go the extra mile every day to improve the environmental, social and economic performance of their companies. In the last 25 years, they’ve achieved far and beyond what any level of government could
Jim McDonough — The Architect As the CCPA’s project manager for Responsible Care, Jim McDonough had the difficult task of developing the original Responsible Care ethic and codes, and of securing their approval by the board and membership. His skills and background made him uniquely suited for the task; Jim had the discipline of an engineer, industry experience from his days working for Polysar Ltd., and a philosopher-like ability to articulate a vision. Jean Bélanger, former president of the association, describes McDonough as quiet, yet determined. “Jim really understood what he was talking about, and because he’d worked in a plant he had the respect of the plant workers. But he also knew when people were trying to pull the wool over his eyes — when they were saying something wasn’t possible and it was. He was very determined to make Responsible Care work. He just went after it.”
have through regulation. It’s through their work and commitment that Responsible Care has maintained its vibrancy and sense of purpose over the last quarter-century. What I’m looking forward to seeing now are the innovative ways that our industry will put sustainability into practice over the next 25 years. That’s going to be very exciting to witness.” ACCN This article is reprinted with permission from the fall 2010 issue of Catalyst magazine, a publication of the Chemistry Industry Association of Canada, where Sarah Mayes is Manager of Public Affairs.
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NOvember/December 2010 Canadian Chemical News 19
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Society News Nouvelles des sociétés The Boards
CIC Board of Directors Nominations/ Nominations pour le Conseil de direction de l’ICC (2010–2011) The Nominating Committee, appointed under the terms of CIC By-Law Article X, Section 1, has proposed these candidates to serve as the Institute officers for 2011–2012. Further nominations are solicited from the membership for the position of vice-chair. They must be submitted in writing, must have the written and signed consent of the nominee to serve if elected, and must be signed by no fewer than 25 members in good standing of the Institute (CIC By-Law Article X, Section 3 (d)). The deadline for receipt of any additional nominations is Tuesday, February 8, 2011. If any
elections are required, ballots will be mailed in April. Those elected — whether by ballot or acclamation — will take office following the annual general meeting of the Institute on Tuesday, June 7, 2011 in Montréal, Québec. En vertu de l’article X, section 1, du règlement de l’ICC, le Comité des candidatures propose la candidature des personnes ci-dessous aux postes d’administrateur pour 2011–2012. Les membres sont invités à soumettre d’autres candidatures pour le poste de vice-président. Celles-ci doivent être présentées par écrit,
Maja Veljkovic, FCIC Chair 2011–2012 Director General Institute for Fuel Cell Innovation National Research Centre Canada
Maja Veljkovic, FCIC, is director general of the National Research Council of Canada Institute for Fuel Cell Innovation (NRC-IFCI), and the lead for the National H2FC Program, a Vancouver-based, federal research and development institute specializing in fuel cell and hydrogen technology. At NRC-IFCI, she leads a national effort to support the fuel cell and hydrogen industry through research leadership, state-of-the-art facilities and cluster development activities. An internationally recognized research institute, NRC-IFCI is Canada’s flagship in fuel cell research. Her personal commitment to clean energy technologies and sustainability make the NRC -IFCI a natural fit for Veljkovic’s talents and capabilities. Prior to joining NRC-IFCI in 2001, Veljkovic served as senior engineer and R&D manager at Syncrude Canada, where she was responsible for major R&D and engineering projects. Most recently, she was Syncrude’s senior advisor, Upgrading Research Program. Veljkovic's academic training began at the University of Belgrade in Yugoslavia, where in 1972 she obtained her bachelor of science degree in chemical engineering. In 1976, she received her masters of science in chemical engineering from The University of British Columbia. Veljkovic's professional achievements have been recognized by election to many prestigious professional societies, including the Engineering Institute of Canada (EIC) where she presided as president from 20042006, working on the Vision for Canadian Engineers initiative and the organizing of the Climate Change Technology Conference 2006. In the past, she has served as president of the Canadian Society for Chemical
être accompagnées du consentement écrit et signé par le candidat à remplir la charge s’il est élu, et doivent être signées par au moins 25 membres en règle de l’Institut (article X, section 3 (d) du règlement de l’ICC). La date limite pour soumettre d’autres candidatures est mardi le 8 février 2011. Advenant qu’un scrutin soit nécessaire, les bulletins seront postés en avril. Les personnes élues par scrutin ou par acclamation entreront en fonction après l’assemblée générale annuelle de l’Institut, qui aura lieu mardi le 7 juin 2011, à Montréal (Québec).
Engineering (CSChE) and chair of the Upgrading Technical Planning Group of the Canadian Oil Sands Network for R&D (CONRAD). She has also received a number of awards recognizing her professional contributions, including the 1997 YWCA Women of Distinction Award for Science and Technology and is a recipient of CIC and the EIC fellowships. Recently she served on the panel of the “Meeting of the Mines” event that framed a message to the next US president regarding sustainable transportation strategy. Veljkovic is the 2009 – 2010 Vice-Chair of the CIC. Russell Boyd, FCIC Vice-Chair 2011–2012 Professor Department of Chemistry Dalhousie University
Russell Boyd, a native of Kelowna, B. C., graduated from The University of British Columbia in 1967 with the Lefevre Gold Medal. As one of the first recipients of a 1967 Science Scholarship, he received his PhD in theoretical chemistry from McGill University in 1971. An NRC Postdoctoral Fellowship with Charles Coulson at the University of Oxford was followed by a Killam Postdoctoral Fellowship at UBC. Boyd joined Dalhousie University in 1975 and rose through the ranks to become a professor in 1985. He served as chair of the Department of Chemistry at Dalhousie from 1992 to 2005. He was named a Faculty of Science Killam Professor in 1997 and in 2001 became the seventh holder of the Alexander McLeod Chair of Chemistry, one of the oldest named professorships in chemistry in Canada. Boyd has published over 240 peer-reviewed papers in computational and theoretical chemistry. His many professional activities include serving on numerous NSERC committees, and acting as Editor for theoretical chemistry of the Canadian Journal of Chemistry from 1988 to 1998. He has been a NOvember/December 2010 Canadian Chemical News 21
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Society News Nouvelles des sociétés Letters member of the Scientific Board of the World Association of Theoretical and Computational Chemists since 2002. His service to the Canadian Society for Chemistry (CSC) includes being a member of the Organizing Committees for the conferences in 1981, 1990 and 2006, Chair of the Division of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry, Director of Accreditation and Board Member from 1996 to 1999, and President for 2007-2008. He was awarded the 2009 Montréal Medal by the Chemical Institute of Canada in recognition of his contributions to chemistry in Canada. Statement of Policy I am honoured to stand as a candidate for CIC Vice-Chair for 2011-2012. During my time as President of the Canadian Society for Chemistry I gained a greater appreciation of the Chemical Institute of Canada and its three constituent societies. Chemists, chemical engineers and chemical technologists share many common interests and are well-positioned to improve the quality of life in Canada and to contribute to the development of a sustainable society. Our chemical professionals must play leading roles in meeting the economic, educational, environmental, political and technological challenges of the future. I will use my experience and knowledge of the chemistry and scientific community in Canada to work to strengthen the Chemical Institute of Canada. Increasing the membership of the CIC constituent societies must be a priority. In order to attract additional members, the CIC must reach out to young chemical professionals in industry and government, as well as the academic community. We must convince an ever-increasing fraction of the chemical engineering, chemical technology, and chemistry communities that the CIC is a dynamic organization to which they want to belong and to which they are willing to contribute. Furthermore, the CIC must continue to develop good working relationships with other professional societies in Canada and abroad. I do not pretend to have all the answers to the challenges facing the CIC, but I am willing to work with the membership, the Boards of the constituent societies and the CIC Board of Directors to achieve these objectives.
Ajay Dalai’s article, “Saskatchewan: a haven for scientists and engineers” in the September 2010 issue was an interesting and informative summary of the opportunities for science and engineering in the province. In addition to his summary I would like to point out to readers the role of the technical institute, SIAST. SIAST trains the technologist level of scientist and engineers who also contribute to the economy of the province. In particular, the Saskatoon campus of SIAST trains chemical technologists, who support the chemical industry daily with their work. These technologists can also be members of the CIC through their constituent society, the CSCT. Chris Meintzer, MCIC, President of the Board of Directors of the CSCT
At the age of 95 and as a member of the CIC since its organization, and as someone who was on the ground floor in the development of both canola and potash (“The Saskatchewan Issue,” September 2010), I am rash enough to write about the earlier history! I worked for a time with Consolidated Mining & Smelting (C.M.&S.) in Trail, B.C. where we smelted ore from the lead-zinc mine in Kimberley, B.C. The sulphur dioxide killed all the vegetation and the company was forced to convert the gas to sulphur trioxide — sulphuric acid — the beginning of a fertilizer industry. Meanwhile, Shell was drilling for oil in Saskatchewan and ran across potash and sent a core to C.M.&S. I was turned loose to study the potash industry. Some time later I got an offer to become professor of chemistry at the University of Saskatchewan. At a chemical conference I met the assistant deputy minister of natural resources for Saskatchewan, who, having heard of my potash study asked if I could go as a consultant to study the three American companies in New Mexico. Naturally I was pleased to accept and found in the interviews with the three companies that they had much in common, but some interesting differences. The vast Saskatchewan deposits were interesting because they went from 600 feet at Estevan (solution mining only) to 2000 feet around Saskatoon — good for shaft mining normally, except that water poured in as the shaft was sunk, so the water had to be frozen. With such rich deposits, Saskatchewan is sitting on a veritable ‘gold’ mine! I also worked on canola, trying to remove the deleterious euric acid from the rapeseed oil. A former student in my organic chemistry course, Keith Downey, in collaboration with Baldur Steffansson succeeded in breeding out the euric acid, thus opening the whole vegetable oil food market and replacing the more expensive olive oil. Elvins Y. Spencer, London, Ont
I accept enthusiastically your invitation to comment on Joe Schwarcz’s article Saucey Sham, published in the July/August 2010 issue. In the traditional fermentation method for soya sauce, one of the products is monosodium glutamate (MSG) which gained fame, then notoriety as a flavour-enhancer. I had a devastating encounter with this chemical some years ago. I am concerned about a food process that generates MSG. Schwarcz mentioned that some of the ‘chemical’ versions for producing soya sauce use human hair as the raw material. Well let me share a little history with you. In 1966, when I joined Canada Packers Research Centre, as Group-Leader (Chemical Development), my first project was to isolate an amino acid (L-Cystine) from chicken feathers (a keratin source). We investigated numerous other keratin sources before settling on human hair (from China) as our best raw material for isolating L-Cystine. I had even developed a method of selectively isolating this amino acid (as a m-benzinedisulphonic acid salt) by exploiting the fact that it is the only naturally-occurring diamino di-carboxylic amino acid. However, the overall process for isolating L-Cystine (from a keratin source) was never commercialized, because of the ecological and corrosive problems associated with the process. And now all amino acids (except methione) can be prepared readily by fermentation. Thomas F. Massiah, FCIC Miriam Diamond (“Pressing the Limit,” June 2010) states that oil sands are dirty. What makes it dirtier than other oil? Having worked with people who worked in oil industries around the NOvember/December 2010 Canadian Chemical News 23
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Society News Nouvelles des sociétés world, they will tell you OIL IS NOT CLEAN — PERIOD. Diamond also makes the statement that oil sands are less economical because they have to remove the overburden. Most of the activity for the last 10 years has been in steam assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) which doesn't use an open pit mine method. They simply drill two wells down, put a natural gas boiler at the top, and run steam down the formation. This heats up the formation, and the second pipe catches the oil. For the first while the water cut is high, but it improves. When you look at finished pictures of the sites there are just a couple of pipe headers, and a boiler. Very little disturbance. The land around the tar sands is not like the cottage country around Ontario. In fact, coworkers I know complained all the time about how hard it was for construction. Could hardly dig in a fence post, and the ground was oozing a tar-like substance. What makes it dirty is the fact that it is mixed with sand. And that was the processing problem engineers dealt with for years, how to separate it from the sand economically. In Alberta, we take a lot of spit and abuse about the tailings ponds. The reason the tailings ponds are constructed (with liners and lots of monitoring) is to keep the harmful chemicals in a safe location. Yes, some birds died. Actually, less than are killed due to the wind turbine farms in eastern Canada, but that is another topic. I got to meet engineers and geologist and they discussed the science and study that went into even selecting the location of the tailings ponds. When you look at the study and the work involved, someone in the engineering field should be proud of the application of the science.
As for me, I hope they ban deep well drilling. Being from Alberta, I like the idea of them banning it, but so do the Saudis and Iraq and Iran. Vince White
CSChE and CSC 2010 Student Award Winners The 2010 winners of the CSC Alfred Bader Scholarships are: Soula Azzi, Université de Montréal, Tayseer Mahdi, Ryerson University, and Dustin King, University of Nor thern British Columbia: Alfred Bader Scholarships are presented for excellence in achievement in organic chemistry or biochemistry by undergraduate students completing their final year of study in an honours program.
The 2010 winners of the CSChE Chemical Engineering Local Section Scholarships are: Keith Oxby, McMaster University and Sharleen Weatherley, McMaster University: CSChE Chemical Engineering Local Section Scholarships are presented to undergraduate students entering their final year of chemical engineering studies at a Canadian university. The scholarships look at leadership qualities and demonstrated contributions to the CSChE.
Process Safety Business Development Engineer
The Company Baker Engineering and Risk Consultants provides services to industries and governments around the world to assess and manage the consequences and risks associated with potentially catastrophic events including explosions, fires and toxic material releases. Their research and development programs make them a technology leader with the most advanced methodologies and tools to predict potential consequences, analyze risk, and design protection, prevention, and mitigation systems for such catastrophic events.
The Function Our Client is seeking the right person to join their Ontario-based team to assist in the development, and professional delivery, of a range of qualitative and quantitative Risk Management Services. The Senior Level Engineer will assist with business development for risk engineering and Process Safety Management. • Provide input to the development of project proposals. • Deliver professional technical risk services to clients. • Maintain and enhance client relationships. • Manage project costs and optimize staff utilization. • Able to manage and execute safety, risk or related projects and activities. • Capable of managing and conducting QRA’s and similar projects. • Able to demonstrate a comprehensive history of active project management specific to consequence and risk analysis and similar studies.
The Individual • BSc. Chemical or Mechanical Engineering with 10+years Process Safety in Oil and Gas and PetroChem, with practical experience performing and managing QRAs, Consequence analysis, Hazard identification studies. • Candidate must be very comfortable developing long-term client relationships within Canada and performing actual studies.
• Knowledge of fire prevention codes, accident investigation and related services is considered a plus. • Strong capabilities in safety case development and implementation. • Application of Risk management Tools and Techniques, expertise performingProcess Hazard Analyses and risk reviews, with strong facilitationexperience. • Excellent analytical/problem solving, organizational and planning skills. • Excellent communication skills (verbal, listening, technical writing, public speaking, etc.) are essential. • Business development and knowledge of legal requirements affecting the businessunit and services delivered is preferred. • Should be able to work autonomously, show initiative, and be willing to be trained in a variety of software packages, and willing to work outside normal office hours.
Experience in: • Process Engineering • Risk Management • Consequence Analysis • PHA/HAZOP Facilitation • Fire Protection • Process Safety Management • Accident Investigations The Location: Burlington, Ontario
In compliance with Privacy legislation, Mastel Associates considers responses to this posting to constitute consent for us to share your personal information with our client in this search project and retain it for future use.
NOvember/December 2010 Canadian Chemical News 25
Ichikizaki Fund for Young Chemists The Ichikizaki Fund for Young Chemists provides financial assistance to young chemists who show unique achievements in basic research by facilitating their participation in international conferences or symposia.
Eligibility: • • • •
be a member of the Canadian Society for Chemistry or the Chemical Society of Japan; not have passed his/her 34th birthday as of December 31 of the year in which the application is submitted; have a research specialty in synthetic organic chemistry; be scheduled to attend, within one year, an international conference or symposium directly related to synthetic organic chemistry. Conferences taking place in January to March of each year should be applied for a year in advancein order to receive funding in time for the conference.
Deadline: December For more details:
McMaster University Department of Chemical Engineering 1280 Main Street West Hamilton, Ontario, Canada L8S 4L7 Phone: (905) 525-9140 ext. 24762 | FAX: (905) 521-1350 EMail: email@example.com
Re: Faculty Position in Process Systems Engineering
The Department of Chemical Engineering at McMaster University is seeking an outstanding individual for a tenure-track position at the Assistant or Associate Professor level in the area of process systems engineering. The position is available from July 1, 2011. Applicants should have a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering or closely related discipline and have research interests in areas related to process systems engineering. A broad range of interests within the general process systems area will be considered, including sustainable process engineering, multivariate statistical analysis and applications, multiscale modeling and control, supply chain optimization, systems biology, etc. The successful candidate will have the opportunity to participate in the McMaster Advanced Control Consortium with the existing faculty and several multinational companies. The successful candidate will also be expected to contribute to teaching in both our graduate and undergraduate programs and to develop a strong research program. Applicants should send a letter of application, full CV including a list of publications, statement of teaching and research interests, a selection of research publications, and the names of at least three references (with postal and email addresses). Registration or eligibility for registration, by Professional Engineers of Ontario, will be considered an asset. Please send the application materials to the attention of: Dr. Shiping Zhu, Prof & Chair, Department of Chemical Engineering, McMaster University, JHE 374, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada L8S 4L7. Applications will be accepted until the position has been filled. All qualified candidates are encouraged to apply; however, Canadians and Permanent Residents will be given priority. McMaster University is strongly committed to employment equity within its community, and to recruiting a diverse faculty and staff. The University encourages applications from all qualified candidates, including women, members of visible minorities, Aboriginal persons, members of sexual minorities, and persons with disabilities.
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Society News Nouvelles des sociétés
Other Awards P h i l l i p p e Ta n g u y, M C I C , o f Fre n c h o i l company Total was awarded an honorary IChemE fellowship in recognition of his contributions to academic and industrial chemical engineering. Before joining Total, Tanguy was professor of chemical engineering at École Polytechnique de Montréal.
Michelle Chrétien, MCIC and Santiago Faucher, MCIC — both chemists with the Xerox Research Centre of Canada (XRCC) — have been named to PrintAction magazine’s inaugural Top 35 Under 35 list for helping to shape the future of the Canadian printing industry. Together, these two researchers have filed about 45 patents.
Nan-Xing Hu, MCIC, also a chemist with the Xerox Research Centre of Canada, has become the seventh Canadian scientist to receive 100 patents. His most recent patent was for his work on an adhesion promoter which he developed in response to customer demand for improvements to book binding capabilities of production colour printers.
Cutting Edge in the Countryside By Bret Macha
Attendees of the Symposium annuel de chimie inorganique du Québec pose in front of the gorgeous JacquesCartier river valley.
ICE-d over in Winnipeg By Scott Kroeker The 2010 Inorganic Chemistry Exchange (ICE) program wrapped up with its annual workshop at the University of Manitoba on August 19-20, 2010. Ten undergraduate students from six provinces spanning the country and their faculty advisors gathered to present and discuss their summer research. Topics ranged from metallothionein to skutterudites, with much in between. Martin Stillman opened the morning with an invigorating lecture on “Why isn’t blood green?” The ICE program, now in its eighth year, operates under the auspices of the CIC Division of Inorganic Chemistry. It is designed to provide talented undergraduate students with an opportunity to do inorganic chemistry research at an institution other than their own. Students or faculty wishing to participate in ICE 2011 should contact Chris Kozak (firstname.lastname@example.org).
August 20, 2010 marked the start of the XIV edition of the Symposium annuel de chimie inorganique du Québec (SACIQ). JacquesCartier National Park near Stoneham, Que. was the inspirational setting for the event, which annually showcases cutting edge research back-dropped by the relaxing beauty and scenic landscape of the Canadian environment. This year SACIQ proudly hosted 30 participants from 7 research groups and 5 universities in discussion of pre-eminent inorganic chemistry. The keynote speaker was Frédéric-Georges Fontaine, who delivered an insightful lecture on “historical molecular geopolitics.” Over $1,600 in prizes was awarded to the participant lecturers and presenters. Overall great chemistry, weather, scenery, and personalities contributed to ensuring that the event will remain a valuable tool for discussing chemistry for years to come. Funding for this event was generously provided by sponsors from Université de Montréal and Université Laval as well as the CIC Division of Inorganic Chemistry.
Inorganic Chemistry Exchange (ICE) students and faculty advisors take a break between sessions at the annual ICE workshop, held at the University of Manitoba in August 2010. NOvember/December 2010 Canadian Chemical News 27
Society News Nouvelles des sociétés Students
Olympic Feats By Stanislaw Skonieczny and Jeffrey Mo with a report from Andrew Dicks, MCIC
Canada’s Chemistry Olympiad team poses at the closing ceremony of the international competition. From left to right, Stan Skonieczny (head mentor), Connie Zhao, Brian Bi, Richard Liu, Philip Sohn, Jeffrey Mo (mentor). The International Chemistry Olympiad (IChO) has risen from very humble beginnings in 1967, when only three nations from Eastern Europe participated. The IChO has been held every year since and now attracts close to 70 countries from all continents. The goal of this competition was initially (and continues to be) encouragement of excellence in chemistry education throughout the world. The IChO is the most prestigious competition of its kind for students at the high school or CÉGEP level. Canada first participated in the International Chemistry Olympiad in 1986. Since then, Canadian students have won 7 gold, 21 silver and 43 bronze medals, along with 3 honourable mentions. Four students, Brian Bi, Richard Liu, Philip Sohn and Connie Zhao, were selected from nine national finalists to represent Canada at the 42nd International Chemistry Olympiad held in Tokyo, Japan from July 19-28. Two Canadian mentors, Stanislaw Skonieczny and Jeffrey Mo, report on their experiences in Japan: “We arrived in Tokyo on July 18 in order to adjust to the time difference. We all stayed at the Overseas Vocational Training Association in Chiba (30 kilometres east of Tokyo) overnight; the mentors remained there, while the students were transferred to the National Youth Centre (NYC) in Tokyo the next day. NYC was the Olympic Village for the 1960 Tokyo Summer Olympics, the first Olympic Games ever held in Asia. The Japanese organizers did a wonderful job organizing the IChO. All participants were truly immersed in Japanese culture. The students had excellent tours — they saw shrines and
temples, went to the Tokyo Tower, took part in judo, tried on kimonos, and ate at two conveyer belt sushi restaurants. The examinations themselves were rather straightforward this year. In the practical exam, students were faced with three tasks: (i) an organic synthesis (oxidation of a Hantzsch ester with an environmentally-friendly oxidant (urea hydrogen peroxide)); (ii) determination of Fe (II) and Fe (III) concentrations by visual colometry; and (iii) polymer titration (with a blue to purple endpoint!). The theoretical examination heavily tested physical chemistry, with only two questions involving organic chemistry and no questions that tested any of the reactions/reagents that the students studied so hard in Canada. Another important part of the IChO, especially for the students, is its social component. Almost immediately once we arrived in Japan, our students became friends with the Dutch and Australian teams. The four team members were a very cohesive unit, and there seemed to be a sincere camaraderie amongst them. As for the mentors, we talked to and made connections with a large variety of countries — this was made easier by our (apparently) wide linguistic and cultural backgrounds. We talked to almost all European countries, most countries in the Americas, and the majority of the countries in Asia and Oceania. The four students performed beyond our expectations. Sohn was called up to the stage first with an honourable mention. This was somewhat of a surprise, as we had heard of many high marks from other countries. After this, we were fairly confident that the other three students (who were separated by less than 4 per cent overall) would receive at least a high bronze medal or a silver medal — and we received three silvers! All four students were thrilled, as were we. In particular, Zhao was able to upgrade her medal from the bronze she earned last year. This is the first time that a female has been the top Canadian student. The top three students in the world came from China, Russia, and South Korea. Ankara, Turkey will be the site of next year’s IChO in mid-July. In 2012, Washington, D.C. will host the IChO at the University of Maryland at College Park. ACCN
NOvember/December 2010 Canadian Chemical News 29
Chemfusion Joe Schwarcz
What’s the Alternative?
t was evident from his glance that the fellow browser in the bookstore recognized me. After a moment, he lifted his eyes from the book he had been thumbing. “Why don’t you guys at McGill teach this stuff in medical school?” “And what stuff would that be?” I queried. “Oh, all this alternative medicine business,” came the reply. “Well,” I suggested, “if it were taught, it would no longer be ‘alternative.’” “Alternative medicine” is indeed a perplexing term. To me, medicine either works, or it doesn’t. If it works, it isn’t “alternative.” If it doesn’t work, it isn’t medicine. So what then is “alternative medicine?” The best definition seems to be “those practices which are not taught in conventional medical schools.” And why not? Because medical schools are sticklers for a little detail called “evidence.” After all, patients have a right to expect that a course of action recommended by a physician has a reasonable chance of working. In science, evidence means statistically significant results from properly controlled experiments, as evaluated by experts in the field. Lack of evidence of course does not mean that a particular treatment cannot work. Only that it has not been demonstrated to work. And that is when it can be termed “alternative.” If sufficient proof is mustered, “alternative” transforms into “conventional.”
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Today, the conventional treatment of ulcers often involves the use of antibiotics. That’s because there is now clear-cut evidence that many ulcers are caused by the Helicobacter pylori bacterium. When the bacterial connection was first suggested by Barry Marshall and Robin Warren back in the 1980s, it was certainly in the “alternative” realm. After all, physicians “knew” that ulcers were caused by stress and excess stomach acid. Skeptics, appropriately, wanted evidence before they jumped on the bandwagon. And it didn’t take long for it to be provided. In a cavalier, and somewhat foolhardy fashion, Marshall drank a solution of Helicobacter pylori and developed a case of gastritis. No ulcer formed, but the experiment managed to stir the scientific community into action and within a few years hundreds of papers were published on the subject. Controlled trials were carried out, and antibiotics were clearly shown to be an effective treatment for ulcers. Today, this is the preferred treatment and is taught in every conventional medical school. Although initially some physicians may have scoffed at the idea of ulcers being caused by bacteria, they were quickly won over by the evidence. Contrary to what is often claimed by alternative practitioners, physicians are not closed-minded about approaches they may not have learned about in medical school, they just would like to see some sort of evidence of efficacy before advocating them. Alternative medicine, by the definition I proposed, encompasses a vast array of treatments, ranging from the possibly useful but unproven, to the ludicrous. Talking about ludicrous, I eventually picked up the book that the gentleman had been perusing. It was written by a chiropractor and alluringly entitled, The Food Allergy Cure: A New Solution to Food Cravings, Obesity, Depression, Headaches, Arthritis, and Fatigue. The thesis of this epic work is that undigested food is the cause of most of our health problems. Given that by definition, undigested food does not enter the bloodstream, it is hard to understand how it can be the cause of all ailments. But I guess you have to have a modicum of scientific knowledge to be bothered by this incongruity. Of course before allergies can be treated, they have to be diagnosed. The author, Ellen Cutler, describes placing a glass vial of a potential allergen in a patient’s hand while pushing down on the opposite, outstretched arm. If the arm is readily pushed down, the patient is allergic. (Plastic vials won’t work, as this icon of scientific
wisdom points out.) Lest the patient worry about exposure to an allergen, Cutler offers reassurance of safety. The reagents she uses “do not contain the actual substances, but instead are energetic carriers of substance signatures made by various homeopathic suppliers.” In simpler terms, her test substances contain nothing. Once an allergen is identified, a cure can be initiated. As the patient sits holding the vial of offending material, “chiropractic techniques are applied to stimulate the acupuncture site connected to the appropriate meridian.” Miraculously (a term that is certainly not in a homeopathic dose in Cutler’s vocabulary) the allergies disappear. To anyone with a scientific bent, all of this sounds like a lot of hooey. But that is not why it is not taught in medical school! After all, Ignaz Semmelweis’ suggestion in 1847 that hand washing could dramatically reduce deaths from childbed fever was also seen as hooey by the medical establishment. But it didn’t take long before evidence dispelled the hooey. Nobody today doubts the importance of hand washing. The reason that Cutler’s allergy diagnosis and treatment are not taught in medical schools is not because there is no physiological basis for the theory, it is not because she’s a chiropractor, and it is not because of the influence of pharmaceutical companies trying to suppress the information. Quite simply, it is because there is no evidence that it works! The same can be said for treating asthma with hydrogen peroxide, infections with Goldenseal or cancer with coffee enemas. Should any of these prove their worth in controlled trials, they will be woven into the conventional curriculum. If there is no efficacy in these alternative treatments, why do people flock to them? Because alternative practitioners are charismatic and often offer hope where mainstream medicine cannot. They use the placebo effect to great advantage and capitalize on the fact that many diseases are self-limiting and resolve by themselves. But when contemplating a course of treatment, it is prudent to reflect upon the words of Victor Herbert, renowned hematologist and champion of evidence-based medicine: “For every complex problem there is a simple solution, and it is always wrong.” ACCN Joe Schwarcz is the director of McGill University’s Office for Science and Society. Read his blog at chemicallyspeaking.com.
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