Sciencemadness Discussion Board

WHO you are our only hope

KalleMP - 9-12-2016 at 00:24

My first post here.

Quick background. I like chemicals, etching, silver and iron based photo processing and other such trivia. I have relocated to Europe and am somewhat dismayed at the significant and increasing restrictions on the availability of reagents for the chemical hobbyist. I have read quite a bit here and elsewhere about the tide of regulations that seems set to overwhelm our hobby and the hope of inspiring and educating the future chemists that will have to work in ever more difficult times.

I see a goal for humanity as a group of nations that have as individual goals the aim to improve the lot of their subjects and where possible to assist those who are not as well off where they are so that they do not become a never ending migrant crisis. The only long term way of operating this planetary system is going to be a sustainable system, this sounds trite and is often used as a buzz word but is tragically just a truism. There can be no other way and the sooner the public speech of all elected officials is forced to acknowledge this simple fact the sooner we will all collectively start to search for the correct solution instead of pandering to quick fixes that enrich select interest groups.

The internet is going to be our saviour and I hope and expect that it will occur inevitably though there are various attempts to subvert the organic healing that can occur through the dissemination of information.

The most sustainable way of living for a person and a society IS by definition the cheapest way, the cheapest for the consumer that is and not the corporate tax avoider. As automation grows and many traditional jobs are lost the free time of people will increase and the amount of currency available will decrease. This will result in a need to do more things for ourselves rather than having the ability to just go and buy some very expensive coloured water with 1% exotic surfactants in a plastic bottle because we have become unable to dilute some ammonia from a bottle of concentrate. People will once again have to make use of their own skills to have a comfortable life.

Now to the topic on my post, how are we as amateur, hobby and subsistence chemists going to protect the future of our planet (and our hobby) against the tide of regulation that does not care for us one little whit? We have only one option and that is to plead our case as a necessary function for society rather than our selfish desires. Much as the amateur radio industry has managed to gain, flourish and now still cling onto it's perks, benefits and rights I believe the hobby chemists will be able to do the same. However they will only manage this if they take the same steps. They will need to get organised (distasteful as that seems in many ways) and present their case to society to formally justify their existence. Here the WHO will come to the rescue.

The WHO maintains a evolving list of the 100 most important medicines that are required to maintain a healthy society. It is a broad list and gives one a interesting view of what the greater social health concerns are.

I believe it is a human right to be allowed to medically treat the health or illness of one's own body when one is competent. This means that one has a human right to be allowed to synthesize the medication one needs for the eventuality that they are not available in sufficient purity, amounts, privacy and affordability at some point in time. While this is justification for preparing ANY of the 100 items on the WHO medication list, I personally think that it would make sense to start with the items that are practical for self medication, those useful after self diagnosis and those that may have already some supply restrictions. I do not suggest preparing psychoactive or habit forming substances as an initial priority but cannot see a moral basis for preventing their preparation at home. There should be knowledge in a wiki that describes how to synthesise or extract each of the 100 WHO medicines in a safe and environmentally friendly manner (without the baseless fear mongering about quality please, just the required steps to do the job right). This information and skill set will be required for any Mars colonists as well.

So if you think that the emergency preparedness obligation that the amateur radio fraternity accepts in return for radio spectrum would be similar to the offer to prepare emergency medication in times of global calamity in exchange for the freedom to practice NON-commercial chemical synthesis where it does not harm others or the environment would be a fair trade then speak up. As I mentioned above it may require getting organised and may even require the same light level of regulation and perhaps passing of a basic chemical safety, storage and disposal test.

I have read 3D printing mentioned in the same sentence as chemical restrictions and we all know that genie is out of the bag but availability of some reagents and the legal prohibition of synthesis is something that could hamper all hobby chemists in the civilised world for a long time to come.


Any time someone puts a lock on something you own against your wishes, and doesn't give you the key, they're not doing it for your benefit.

Cory Doctorow 2009
The only stable form of government is Open Source Government.

Kalle Pihlajasaari 2013

[Edited on 2016-12-9 by KalleMP]

[Edited on 2016-12-9 by KalleMP]

Tsjerk - 9-12-2016 at 01:47

I'm pretty sure not more than a couple of those medications could be made in a amateur seeing with semi-otc chemicals. Most of them require such complicated chemicals or chemistry it is easier to find the drug itself.

Also for example all the antibiotics require huge biofermentors and tedious work up for example.

Herr Haber - 9-12-2016 at 06:14

Quote: Originally posted by Tsjerk  

Also for example all the antibiotics require huge biofermentors and tedious work up for example.

Sulfonamides ? ;)

Tsjerk - 9-12-2016 at 06:17

Ah yes, ofcourse. I have to admit I looked up the synthesis of sulfonamides once for this very reason.

Fleaker - 9-12-2016 at 07:55

As a Type I diabetic, I would like to learn how to make my own insulin, preferably a human insulin so I don't have to be slaughtering dozens of pigs and such.

KalleMP - 10-12-2016 at 02:10

Cool, we have out first candidate: Sulfonamides

I have never heard of a synthesized insulin, the animal origin does make me a little skittish and hope not to develop a need. The meat industry does have a lot of waste and having access to the waste stream of a pig abattoir for the pancreas (put on ice soonest I seem to recall) would be the best starting point. Managing to get consistent potencies from biological materials will be a hard task but perhaps not impossible.

Simple things like preparing 70% ethanol for hand sanitisation (and 95% for process heaters) should be encouraged instead of criminalised.

I like the thought of preparing acetyl salicylic acid from raw material (and there is another that can be reached from similar sources) just for fun but not quite up to the task.

Not sure how Vitamin C is synthesised or extracted but it is of interest to me as a valuable supplement and raw material for developing photos.

The Bio-reactors are obviously a challenge but a lot of early medicines must have been practical to prepare in small laboratories.

With just two ducks, they are always in a row. - Kalle Pihlajasaari 2013

Metacelsus - 10-12-2016 at 06:21

Insulin can be produced (expensively) via solid phase peptide synthesis, or you could try making some recombinant bacteria.

Tsjerk - 10-12-2016 at 10:05

I think the recombinant bacteria are the easiest, that was done in 78, while in that time that field of science was brand new.

Herr Haber - 12-12-2016 at 08:55

Well, if you are just looking for candidates that are on the WHO list and can be made by an amateur chemist, I nominate benzyl benzoate.

I got scabies a couple of years ago and the lotion sold in pharmacies was out of stock nationwide (organized shortage).
I started thinking what I could do with what I had at hand. The first thought was the nuclear option (HCN) but it probably wouldnt have worked without killing me.
Second thought was just milder: chloropicrin. I know of it's uses in agriculture but was unsure of the success of this idea. Besides... my neighbours might have had their own opinion about this.
And finally I thought I should look for the active ingredient in the lotion that had been out of stock for more than a year...

I never had to go though with the synthesis as a good willed friend got 2 liters off eBay. Enough for 40 people....

You mentioned acetylsalicylic acid. Salicylic acid can be found in the bark of several easy to find trees. But for the acetylation... that's another story :)

PeterC - 12-12-2016 at 10:57

A skim of the list reveals that there are quite a few things that could be made in a well stocked amateur lab:
* Sulfa Drugs or if you choose to go up from there you could synthesise Prontosil by diazotization of sulfa
* Acetylsalicylic Acid (Classic org. chem. lab)
* Paracetamol (there are many published synthetic routes)
* Prussian Blue (Classic inorganic demo.)
* Selenium Disulfide
* Benzoyl Peroxide
* Benzyl Benzoate
* Fluorescein (Easy)
* Barium Sulfate
* Zinc Sulfate
* Lithium Carbonate
* Caffeine Citrate

Other drugs that sound interesting to synthesize:
* Merbromin (Dangerous due to soluble mercury + organomercury hazards)
* Modafinil

[Edited on 12-12-2016 by PeterC]

Tsjerk - 13-12-2016 at 02:45

Quote: Originally posted by Herr Haber  

You mentioned acetylsalicylic acid. Salicylic acid can be found in the bark of several easy to find trees. But for the acetylation... that's another story :)

For the acetylation you could start from acetate which is a metabolite from yeast when oxidatively fermenting sugars. You could also take the salicylic acid as it is, but with a stomach lining protector (zinc-carnosine?). Although acetylation is easier than making caressing.

KalleMP - 14-12-2016 at 00:58

I was thinking the place to start would be or something more formal like as required.

There should be a place where all the socially acceptable things about hobby chemistry should be very clearly and safely documented so that we can point to a web site and say this is why politicians need to put in personal use exceptions to a bunch of the more onerous criminalisation las that relate to personal ownership and synthesis of precursors.

It would be better if limited use that was not directly dangerous should be allowed or we will suffer from the negative consequences of prohibition and this is never a benefit.

Unless the reformer can invent something which substitutes attractive virtues for attractive vices, he will fail. - Walter Lippmann 1913

XeonTheMGPony - 14-12-2016 at 09:24

The above post made me think of this, people are so ignorant of history they have no idea how allot of the WW1 drugs are pretty much the same as the ones used now days.

The poison is in the dose, and over use of pain killers leads tot he addiction.

Eventually I'd like to be able to make my own opoid pain killers and such, more as a prepper type mentality, I just do not see society being sustainable in the way it is being managed so having self reliance to that level is a target goal.

And I all so see it that it is you who owns your body out right so long as you are not giving or selling it to any one it is non of the guberments business what one does so long as it is don safe and responsibly.

AvBaeyer - 16-12-2016 at 17:05

"And I all so see it that it is you who owns your body out right so long as you are not giving or selling it to any one it is non of the guberments business what one does so long as it is don safe and responsibly."

Emphasis on "responsibly." Don't think that you can screw up and make everyone else responsible for your mistakes and/or ignorance. The laws you may not like are to prevent you from becoming everybody's expensive problem.


Tsjerk - 16-12-2016 at 23:52

A very human problem is the inability to see once own flaws, making the person believe he is being responsible. If the person would know the flaws they could help themselves, but all those flaws they stay oblivious to remain...

KalleMP - 9-1-2017 at 00:18

Quote: Originally posted by AvBaeyer  
"And I all so see it that it is you who owns your body out right so long as you are not giving or selling it to any one it is non of the guberments business what one does so long as it is don safe and responsibly."

Emphasis on "responsibly." Don't think that you can screw up and make everyone else responsible for your mistakes and/or ignorance. The laws you may not like are to prevent you from becoming everybody's expensive problem.


In my first post I do mention the social responsibilities. However I get a bit defensive when hobby activity is called out to be polluting or socially detrimental.

I believe a single aeroplane crash will create more environmental damage than a individual hobby chemist can in a lifetime. A single oil tanker spill will cause more damage than ALL the hobby chemists EVER. A single forest fire more airborne emissions than any private individual even if trying hard.

Also lest we forget, industry does have by products, they just have systems in place to manage them reasonably responsibly. Hobby chemists could do exactly the same if it was so desired.

The real reason DIY chemistry is not promoted is the same as the reason 3D desktop printing is feared. There is no possibility of control and the grave fear that abuses will happen. Given that right now at least 5 people (probably many more) on this forum would be skilled enough to cook up some lethal (not to mention exothermic) substances that would be able to terminate a few score of people the group as a whole is as dangerous as all the terrorists in Europe. They can do this in spite of the current limitations so imagine if more people could do this who had less moral fibre or ethical standards. This is the fear that drives the regulators into their onerous but still ineffective ways of trying to demonise the home synthesis of useful chemical compounds (and even mixtures) in the hope that it will not become widespread. It is doomed to fail and it would be nice if one accepted this when looking for solutions.

The only way to stop people from making toxins, narcotics and explosives is to make them want to stop, an evil/anti-social/bad person does not obey laws so why are they even in place. Rather spend half of the money spent on the drug war on establishing why people are unhappy enough to want to kill themselves or others and work at removing the root causes. In all fairness 90% of global hostility is due to limited resources and proselytizing. If leaders have to maintain their own populations within the carrying capacity of their own suburb, county, province, country, continent, planet then they will not need to go pillaging to survive. The only way to motivate individuals is individually, through people they respect, a foreign power cannot motivate an individual however a elected/designated leader can be pressurised to educate downstream while trying to motivate the needs/wants of his constituents upstream. Self determination as long as it does not cause damage outside the local region should always be the goal.

Especially self determination in my own lab.

Good fences make good neighbors. - Robert Frost 1916 (from Mending Wall)