Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society

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Hazardous Chemicals: Agents of Risk and Change (1800 - 2000)

The Research Institute of the Deutsches Museum, the Department of History of Maastricht University, and the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society offered a joint workshop dealing with the history of hazardous chemicals in honor of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring in April 2012.

Chemistry is undoubtedly one of the sciences with the greatest social and economic impact. During the past two centuries millions of new substances have been discovered, and a few thousand of them have become novel industrial products. In several cases the scale of production, together with by-products and wastes, has led to previously unknown effects on human health and on the environment. Growing awareness of the impacts of hazardous substances on the economy, society, and the environment has stimulated new scientific insights, discussion of risk perception, and new legislation. Advances in analysis and detection of chemicals have played a large role in this respect. Since the 1960s, industrialized countries have adopted a framework for assessing and regulating toxic chemicals, which remains in force today. By this means attempts have been made, with varying degrees of success, to control individual pollutants using scientific and technical tools, including risk assessment, toxicological testing, epidemiological investigations, pollution control devices, trace measurements, and waste treatment and disposal technologies.

For more information on the conference, including the conference report and program, please visit the event page.