Human innovation caused the chemicals emergency – and it can solve it

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WHEN the US chemicals company DuPont adopted the slogan “Better Things for Better Living… Through Chemistry” in 1935, it was to try to win over a public wary of new synthetic materials such as nylon, neoprene and pesticides. It seems to have succeeded. For most people, life today is steeped in synthetic chemicals.

Many of these chemicals are benign and do indeed make life better, delivering superior medicines, higher agricultural yields, innovative materials, cleaner water, magical electronic products and a radical abundance of consumer goods.

But better living through chemistry has turned out to be a Faustian pact. Over the …

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