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UCSB professors working on chemical information database for consumers, industry

Flickr member Vall d'Hebron Research Institute (VHIR)

A group of professors at UCSB are working on a way to help industry and consumers keep track of potentially dangerous new chemicals.

The EPA is funding the $4.8 million initiative called the Sustainable Chemical Network. Its goal, according to the University, is to provide scientific information on some of the thousands of synthetic chemicals registered to the American Chemical Society's chemicals list each day. It will look at the possible health and environmental impacts of these new substances and give scientists the ability to quickly assess the information. 

"The primary user would be industry because they're the ones that are generating the materials and we want to bring them into the whole process, we see them as really interested," said UCSB Professor Arturo Keller. "But of course it will be available for the public, so the public may be able to see what is happening with this new material that [they] keep hearing about."

Professor Keller says the school was chosen to avoid bias on the part of industry groups or environmental organizations. Profiles on controversial chemicals, like bisphenol A (BPA), will include information from a wide variety of sources, including a look at issues and where current studies stand.

The UCSB team includes David Auston, executive director of the UCSB Institute on Energy Efficiency, as well as Professors Keller, Sangwon Suh, Susannah Scott, Michael Dohert, and Ram Seshadri.  There are chemical industry partners too, including Unilever, Dow Chemical Company and Raytheon.

The team will prioritize chemicals based on their components, and will give extra consideration to food additives and those with a likelihood of consumer contact.

The project is just getting underway and could be available within the next couple of years.