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1. HELPING CHEMISTS FIND JOBS IN A TOUGH MARKET. 2. TOWARDS A QUANTITATIVE UNDERSTANDING OF THE QUALITY OF THE CHEMISTRY JOB MARKET.
A California jury on Friday found Monsanto liable in a lawsuit filed by a school groundskeeper who said the company’s weedkillers, including Roundup, caused his cancer. The company was ordered pay $289 million in damages.
The case of the groundskeeper, Dewayne Johnson, 46, was the first lawsuit to go to trial alleging that Roundup and other glyphosate-based weedkillers cause cancer. Monsanto, a unit of the German conglomerate Bayer following a $62.5 billion acquisition, faces more than 5,000 similar lawsuits across the United States.
Mr. Johnson’s lawyers said he developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma after using Roundup and Ranger Pro, another Monsanto glyphosate herbicide, as part of his job as a pest control manager for a California county school system.
The jury in Superior Court of California in San Francisco deliberated for three days before finding that Monsanto had failed to warn Mr. Johnson and other consumers of the cancer risks posed by its weedkillers.
It awarded $39 million in compensatory and $250 million in punitive damages...As one might imagine, I'm pretty skeptical about the carcinogenicity of glyphosate. Nevertheless, I think that most typical people feel very much otherwise.
A grand jury in Houston indicted Arkema and two of its executives Friday on criminal charges that they “recklessly” failed to prevent fires and releases from a chemical plant near Houston last year during catastrophic flooding from Tropical Storm Harvey.
Reactive organic peroxides decomposed and caught fire after floodwaters knocked out power and disabled refrigeration at Arkema’s Crosby, Texas, plant. The chemicals must be kept cool to remain stable.
In addition to the company, the indictment names Richard Rowe, CEO of Arkema’s North America operations, as well as plant manager Leslie Comardelle. If convicted, Arkema could face $1 million in fines and the executives could face five years in prison.
“Companies don’t make decisions, people do,” Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg, whose office sought the indictment, said in a statement. “Responsibility for pursuing profit over the health of innocent people rests with the leadership of Arkema."...From the press release from the Harris County DA:
The indictment charges they all had a role in “recklessly” releasing chemicals into the air, placing residents and first responders at risk of serious bodily injury. The charge carries penalties of up to five years in prison for the persons and up to a $1 million fine for the corporation...
...Chemicals had to be kept frozen to avoid bursting into flames, but temperatures rose after floodwaters knocked out the plant’s power. As a result, the chemicals exploded, causing a fire that burned for day and releasing the cloud.
Prosecutors allege the disaster could and should have been prevented.I'm a little stumped as to how they plan to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt, but there you are. Via the Houston Chronicle, the actual charges:
And the grand jury charged Arkema, Rowe and Comardelle with reckless emission of an air contaminant under the Texas Water Code. The charge carries a penalty of up to five years in prison for the individuals and a fine of up to $1 million for the corporation.Plant manager's a tough position in Houston if this becomes a regular thing...
...So if the scientific workforce, the chemical workforce, and younger members of ACS are predominantly employed outside academia, with many of them in nonlaboratory positions, why are these career paths still referred to as “nontraditional”? I’ll admit, I’m guilty of using this term myself. As an accomplished bench-trained chemist who has actively pursued a career at the interface of science and business, I’ve chosen not to work in a laboratory setting since the completion of my graduate education. I still very much consider myself a chemist, despite having caught myself on occasion telling others that I have followed a “nontraditional path.”
Some of this mind-set is perpetuated by what seems to be misinterpretation of the data. The ChemCensus data* I cited above were preceded by the following statement: “The increasing rate of doctorate degree holders in the chemistry workforce appears to be fueled by the growth of employment opportunities in the academic sector.”
In my opinion, that is flat-out wrong. The reality is that few academic positions are available each year, and institutions train more scientists than there are faculty positions and grant funding to support. The more likely explanation for the numbers seen in the ChemCensus is that chemists who pursue these “nontraditional paths” may (incorrectly) see less value in ACS membership. This may be fueled in part by a sense of nonbelonging—the idea that these nonlaboratory chemists are seen as less of a chemist than their academic counterparts through their continued branding as “nontraditional.”I really liked this piece, in that it struggles with the difficult question of "why does non-academic participation in the American Chemical Society keep dropping?" I'm not sure the 'non-traditional' branding is the reason why, but I think Dr. LaFranzo has a good point, in that ACS feels like an "academia-first" society, especially when ACS has its larg-ish gatherings like National Meetings. But that's just my perception.
DuPont will pay a $3.1 million civil penalty under an agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Justice for violations of EPA’s risk management program (RMP) provisions. The violations led to an accident that killed four workers in Texas in late 2014.
The accident occurred when nearly 11,000 kg of methyl mercaptan were released at a pesticide manufacturing unit at DuPont’s La Porte plant. Because of a series of maintenance errors, a jerry-rigged piping system transferred the flammable and toxic compound to plant areas where it should not have been. Two unsuspecting workers died when they attempted to clear a vent that they didn’t realize contained methyl mercaptan; two others died when coming to their aid.
According to EPA’s complaint, DuPont’s actions violated 22 separate provisions of the Clean Air Act’s RMP. The alleged violations include failing to develop and implement written operating procedures, adequately implement management of change procedures, and implement safe work practices. The citations also include alleged violations of mechanical integrity regulations...A disappointing aspect of these fines is of their relative size - will DuPont really miss 3 million bucks? Probably not. I wonder if there's an argument to be made for changing fines to be a percentage of gross revenue?
What's the job market like for chemists? Dude -- it's always bad.*
How bad is it? How the heck should I know? Quantifying the chemistry job market is what this blog is about. That, and helping chemists find jobs.
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(*For the literal-minded, this is a joke. Mostly.)