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Marie Curie's granddaughter, Hélène Langevin-Joliot

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Marie Curie's granddaughter, Hélène Langevin-Joliot

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“As I sadly cannot attend the event in Helsinki, I would like to use this opportunity to say that I am very touched by the fact that you have thought of giving the name Marie Curie to this new conference centre of the European Chemicals Agency, an agency that is quite new itself.

“Marie used to say ‘I dedicated much of my time for science because I loved research’. That, for me is the most important thing. Yes, she did dedicate her life to science. She found a real pleasure working in the laboratory, researching the unknown and finding her way to overcome many obstacles. You see she dedicated her life to science, so she could make her own choice. For example, during the War, between 1914-1918, she completely abandoned her research. The important thing for her was to get out of the laboratory. She wanted to find ways to increase the possibility for creating an X-ray, which could diagnose the injuries of those wounded in the war. Radioactivity could and had to wait for four years. I think this was part of her way of being.

“Marie was both a physicist and a chemist. As a chemist, she held a strong commitment and interest in the practical applications of radium, not only in its discovery and in what was going on in the lab. What does it mean to study the practical applications? It means that she had a real sense of pleasure in finding applications that were then used in the treatment of tumours. This was particularly important in the 20s, 30s, 40s and beyond. It also meant that she started to take into account the dangers of using radium, despite the fact that it was not easy for her at the time. So, without the intention of making any extrapolations, if we think about all the chemicals as they exist today, people find it difficult to measure the enormous variety of their uses and the real impact they have had on their lives. There are just some things you can’t measure.

“It is the responsibility of scientists to go further than ever before to learn how to manage and use chemicals and protect the health and well being of people, to make sure that there are no negative side effects of any particular chemical product.

“As I understand, the European Chemicals Agency is responsible for putting in place and working with the industry for implementing the newly introduced regulations, which centralise all the industry information about chemicals that has been collected for more than a hundred, or even two hundred years. Sometimes, we don’t know exactly where the information is, so there is a need to control and monitor all the new products that arrive on the market every day, especially as the chemical industry is so highly productive. It creates a lot of new products that are needed to replace some of these chemicals that we suspect could have negative effects.

“At the same time, implementing the new measures for the control of safety and security is an enormous task, which requires transparency. This may well be a buzz word, but in the age we live in, it means that people have both the right and the duty to seek information and learn. I am convinced that an institution like this with its own conference centre will make a real contribution, not only for exchange amongst scientists, but also for reaching out towards citizens.”

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