Friday, September 30, 2005

ACS Hurricane Relief Letter

I got this email this morning (posted in its entirety- I will clean up the links when I can) -ELMO:

(UPDATE- I tried to put the links in as best I could (typos in the original URLs). You may need to hit the refresh button after you click the link once) ELMO.

Dear Colleagues,

I want to extend my thanks to everyone who has sent ideas and suggestions of ways ACS can help our members, families, students, and institutions affected by the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina.

You may recall that ACS efforts began with a resolution on August 31 by the Council of the Society at the ACS National Meeting in Washington, D.C. expressing its deep concern. Please see here. We continue to encourage members to donate to relevant agencies who are able to address immediate short-term disaster relief. To address longer-term needs, Board Chair Jim Burke, Executive Director/CEO Madeleine Jacobs, and I have taken the following actions:

* We have created the Hurricane Katrina Response Task Force, chaired by Board Member Eric Bigham. This task force has members with extensive knowledge of the expertise in our Local Sections, Divisions, and Committees.
* We have created a Web “blog” to help connect those members within and outside the region affected by Hurricane Katrina. We also have created a place within the main blog for ACS members to share Katrina-related observations gathered from our members, their families, and friends.
* We have alerted the committees and divisions with expertise in environmental science and chemical health and safety and asked for volunteers to collaborate and share expertise with state and federal environmental authorities. In the next few weeks, we hope to have a list of priority actions for ACS to implement.
* We have asked the ACS Task Force to focus much of its efforts on understanding the longer-term needs facing colleges and universities and other institutions in the region.
* The Membership Division, Publications Division, and Chemical Abstracts Service have taken steps to assist institutions and individual customers in the afflicted areas; and a number of ACS divisions and local sections are providing services or offering expertise to assist students, faculty, and others in need.
* We have asked that the new ACS Legal Assistance Network (ACS Comment, C&EN, August 29), provide legal triage specifially related to Katrina. This service is available through the website of the Chemistry and the Law Division.
* Finally, we will send one e-mail to all members describing the Society’s response. A more detailed version of this letter may be found in the September 26 issue of Chemical & Engineering News.

We’re all trying to do our part. As ACS President, I welcome additional suggestions of ways we can help via the blog or by e-mail to, and I urge you to keep giving and volunteering to aid in the relief, recovery, and rebuilding efforts needed to overcome this unprecedented disaster.

William F. Carroll, Jr.
ACS President

Thursday, September 29, 2005

We are now on Wikipedia!

Hi all,

Just wanted to let everyone know that we now have an article on Wikipedia.


Monday, September 26, 2005

ACS Committee Members resign to support PubChem!

Two members of an American Chemical Society (ACS) committee have resigned to protest what they say is the society's tight-lipped handling of its battle against a free federal chemical database.

The flap involves the National Institutes of Health's (NIH's) PubChem, which ACS leaders see as a threat to the fee-based Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) (Science, 2 September, p. 1473). Details on the Chemistry Information Sources Discussion List

Here is a brief explanation of the fight to support PubChem, from the SPARC E-News April-May 2005:

SPARC last week issued an action alert encouraging members to support the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in its effort to develop the PubChem online database. PubChem is under assault by the American Chemical Society (ACS), who is calling on Congress to restrict the freely accessible database. PubChem connects chemical information with facts in numerous public databases and is a critical component of NIH's Molecular Libraries Initiative, which in turn is a key element of the NIH strategic “roadmap” to speed new medical treatments and improve healthcare.

ACS claims that PubChem competes with its Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS). In reality, PubChem and the Chemical Abstracts Service databases are complementary, not duplicative. If ACS succeeds in eliminating PubMed, it will hamper scientific progress. The University of California Office of Scholarly Communication lays out the facts of this issue in The American Chemical Society and NIH's PubChem. This page collects the position statements, the major documents, and a list of actions that researchers can take to support PubChem.

Thanks to Brian Lynch for raising this issue.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Water Relief Network

The Water Relief Network is a group that helps to bring both emergency and permanent supplies to distressed areas. You might want to check out their website. We may get some good ideas, or be able to enlist their help with some of our projects. They list some projects they work on, including giving a project report that would be helpful to us as an example. They also list other groups that they work with. They are mainly a funding group, set up by the Chlorine Chemistry Council trade group, to promote the benefits of chemistry, specifically chlorine chemistry. Anyway, check out their website.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Email to Dr. Haris

Good day Dr. Haris,
My name is Brian Wagner and I am a new member of an organization called Chemists Without Borders (CWB) that has started in the United States. Our organization is interested in bettering the world through chemistry. Our primary goals include, but are not limited to: providing vaccines and affordable medicine to those who need them, developing clean water technology, and renewable energy. Our website is Dr. Steve Chambreau (co-founder of CWB) emailed me an article from Chemical and Engineering News about your research regarding arsenic removal from groundwater via ground water hyacinth root. I found the results intriguing and hopeful. Each member of CWB has been asked to develop a project that we feel provides a public benefit. I am very interested in building an arsenic remediation system using water hyacinth, but I could use some additional information to help with the design. How many grams of dried root was required to achieve the 93-95% removal efficiency? How many liters of water was in contact with the root? Does a longer contact time with the root provide for a greater removal of arsenic or is there a point of diminished return? Did you pass more than one aliquot of contaminated water through the same powdered root? If so, did you see breakthrough or reduced removal efficiency after addition of more than one aliquot of water? Did you note any interferences from groundwater geochemistry (i.e., high iron, manganese, phosphate concentrations reducing removal efficiency) What would become of the powdered root after it's ability to absorb arsenic reaches the breakthrough point and needs to be replaced? Is it considered a hazardous waste? On behalf of CWB, I would greatly appreciate any additional information you could provide. Your research is very promising. I like the idea of using a natural resource (especially an unwanted weed) to achieve a remediation goal. In addition to delivering clean water, I can envision the start-up of small businesses to harvest and prepare the root for use in remediation systems, providing a local economic boost to area communities. Thanks for your time. Brian Wagner Chemists Without Borders

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Arsenic Remediation

After spending some time on the internet looking at what has been done with respect to arsenic remediation in drinking water, I can safely say that a lot of time and money has been spent to solve a purvasive problem that afflicts a great many people with only some success. Countries afflicted by this problem include Bangladesh, India, Mexico, Chile, and Mongolia. Currently, Bangladesh and India have recieved the lion's share of attention due to the severity of the problem in those areas.
Remediation systems have ranged from simple iron/sand filtration units at the household level to larger RO systems for villages. The only phytoremediation system that I read about utilized brake fern to uptake arsenic through its root system. It appeared useful for removing arsenic from soil (which would reduce the amount of arsenic in groundwater due to leaching). I haven't run across any reports that water hyacinth is being used in a real world application to remove arsenic. Some of the pitfalls that have plagued current remediation systems revolve around a good understanding of the groundwater chemistry before bring the system on-line. High concentrations of ferrous iron and mangenese will clog up systems when aerated. It has been noted that high phosphate concentrations also shorten the lifespan of some systems. I think it would be very prudent to have a good understanding of the groundwater chemistry before we tried to install a real-world system. Hach methods (using a spectrophotometer) can provide results in the field at a reasonable cost for iron, mangenese, and phosphates. The Hach method for arsenic would not be very useful in the field due to the complexity of the analysis and the hazardous waste disposal of reagents.
I have emailed Dr. Haris, whose paper has prompted all this activity at CWB, to gather additional information about his research that was not presented in the paper. He has not responded yet, but I think his answers will be very helpful to constructing a viable remediation system. I would propose that we think small (we would need to define that in terms of gallons of water treated or people served) at first to work out the kinks before trying our hand at a larger
system. I would also propose that the system be operated via renewable energy sources. I have some thoughts on what a "first draft" system could look like, but I have to go now. I appreciate any feedback. Thanks

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Petition for open access to crystal data

There is a Petition for open access to crystal data available; what is particularly interesting, to me, is the many comments from third world researchers. Thanks to Armel Le Bail, from the SPARC Open Access Forum.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Another Letter to C&E News

Bego pointed this letter out. We have a conference call with Rolande today to explore the possibilities of collaborations with CWB!


Sunday, September 11, 2005

Open Access News of interest this week

Several stories from Open Access News that may be of interest this week:

PubChem now contains structures from LipidMAPs, a total of over 4.2 million structures and 3.2 million compounds.

The U.K. Green Party endorses mandated Open Access

Quick Thinking, OA, and Google save a life - from google blog.

Friday, September 09, 2005

New Member intro/Off-grid living

Hi Chemists Without Borders,

I have just become a recent member of Chemists Without Borders with interests in clean water technology and renewable/alternative energy solutions for third world communities. I have spent many years working for testing laboratories and an environmental engineering company that focused on groundwater and soil testing and remediation resulting from hazardous waste releases.
During my email conversations with Steve Chambreau I mentioned that my wife and I live off the grid in central Vermont. VT may not be the sunniest place in the world, but one can live quite comfortably utilizing solar power. Steve asked if I would talk a little about living off the grid.

Our current set-up uses a photovoltaic array of eight(8) 63 watt solar panels wired together for 24 volt input into a battery bank (consisting of 12 large 2-volt cell batteries). The DC voltage stored in the batteries is inverted through a 1200 watt inverter and wired directly to our 120 volt AC circuit breaker box. The house is wired like any normal house (all outlets and lights are AC voltage). We also have a small micro-hydro system running off a nice waterfall next to the house, but keeping water running in Vermont winters has proved to be a challenge. Typically we rely on the solar. Large power tools and the washing machine run off a gas generator. If our inverter was 2400 watts instead of 1200 watts, we could probably eliminate the generator.

As you can imagine, when you are at the mercy of the sun shining or wind blowing, we tend to be very frugal with our power consumption whenever possible. All our lights are low watt halogen bulbs, our water pump is a low-watt shallow-well jet pump, and we don't have appliances like microwaves or electric dryers.

We have found living off the grid to be rewarding. We are much more cognizant of weather, changes in season and how much energy is consumed during our daily routines.

I would love to put renewable/alt energy systems in places where other people could benefit from them. I also see any clean water systems that we develop powered by renewable/alt energy as well.

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Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

IAEA says Chernobyl Not So Bad

I guess this had me scratching my head.

I would be interested to hear comments on this.


Saturday, September 03, 2005

Chemists Without Borders is Official!!

Our follow up letter to the Editor of C&E News has been published (Aug 29, p7)!!!


Non Profits becoming more prevalent


for an interesting article about non profit organizations. I'd be interested to hear your thoughts as we work to set up CWB as a public benefit organization.