Swimming Pool Blog

12 principles of Green Chemistry in pools

How to Safely drain your swimming pool
by Rob Cox, March 27, 2011

12 principles of Green Chemistry in Pools

Warning: Geeky Chemical talk coming up! This post is a call to swimming pool manufacturers to work harder creating chemicals that are non-toxic, degradable and sustainable in their creation and use. Swimming pool can be hazardous chemicals to buy, transport, store and use - as well as being toxic to the environment.

We have the technology to create safer pool chemicals, created with less waste and fewer byproducts, and of natural, renewable resources. There is a movement afoot, among other industries outside of swimming pools, that is trying to align this technology with the needs of manufacturers and consumers.

It's called the 12 Principles of Green Chemisty, originally the brainchild of Paul Anastas, then of the EPA, and John C. Warner and it provides a framework for what chemistry would be - without toxicity.


12 principles of Green Chemistry

  1. Prevention
    It is better to prevent waste than to treat or clean up waste after it has been created.
  2. Atom Economy
    Synthetic methods should be designed to maximize the incorporation of all materials used in the process into the final product.
  3. Less Hazardous Chemical Syntheses
    Wherever practicable, synthetic methods should be designed to use and generate substances that possess little or no toxicity to human health and the environment.
  4. Designing Safer Chemicals
    Chemical products should be designed to effect their desired function while minimizing their toxicity.
  5. Safer Solvents and Auxiliaries
    The use of auxiliary substances (e.g., solvents, separation agents, etc.) should be made unnecessary wherever possible and innocuous when used.
  6. Design for Energy Efficiency
    Energy requirements of chemical processes should be recognized for their environmental and economic impacts and should be minimized.
  7. Use of Renewable Feedstocks
    A raw material or feedstock should be renewable rather than depleting whenever technically and economically practicable.
  8. Reduce Derivatives
    Unnecessary derivatization should be minimized or avoided if possible, because such steps require additional reagents and can generate waste.
  9. Catalysis
    Catalytic reagents (as selective as possible) are superior to stoichiometric reagents.
  10. Design for Degradation
    Chemical products should be designed so that at the end of their function they break down (degrade) and do not persist in the environment.
  11. Real-time analysis for Pollution Prevention
    Analytical methods need to be further developed to allow for real-time, in-process monitoring and control prior to the formation of hazardous substances.
  12. Inherently Safer Chemistry for Accident Prevention
    Substances and the form of a substance used in a chemical process should be chosen to minimize the potential for chemical accidents, including releases, explosions, and fires.

* Anastas, P. T.; Warner, J. C.; Green Chemistry: Theory and Practice, Oxford University Press: New York, 1998, p.30.

In practice, it can be difficult for manufacturers to meet most of the 12 principles - however those who adopt without fear are finding themselves discovering new, eco-friendly ways to achieve the same goals. Some chemical manufacturers such as Natural Chemistry and Great Lakes Bio-Chemicals rely on creating "green" pool chemicals, mostly in the area of enzyme products, but are they following the 12 principles as outline above?

Swimming pool chemicals, as a category of chemicals, are quite toxic to many types of life forms on this planet, it turns out. I am hopeful that manufactures will manufacture and consumers will consume - less toxic pool chemicals in our near future.