NOAA 2001-R431
Contact: Stephanie Balian


The U.S. Department of Commerce has awarded its Silver Medal to James Farr, of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Office of Response and Restoration for outstanding work in science and engineering. Farr, who serves as environmental chemist, with NOAA Hazmat was presented the award on Nov. 7 by Commerce Secretary Don Evans at a ceremony in Washington, D.C.

Farr was recognized for developing a fundamentally new approach for evaluating reactive hazards associated with chemicals spilled in the environment. The Chemical Reactivity Worksheet Program contains a database of more than 6,000 of the most common hazardous chemicals. The database includes information about the special hazards of each chemical and whether a chemical reacts in a hazardous manner with air, water or other materials. It provides first responders, industrial facility managers, laboratory safety managers, employees and communities with the means to evaluate risks upon mixing of chemicals. As a result, environmental threats due to spills of hazardous chemicals will be reduced and public safety protected.

The secretary grants the Silver Medal -- the department's second highest honorary award -- to employees who have made contributions of exceptional value in support of overall departmental goals that serve the nation.

"A Seattle firefighter actually gave me the original idea for the chemical reactivity program," said Farr. "Our product is now being used throughout the United States and in numerous other countries around the world to improve the safety of emergency responders and chemical industry workers. I'm honored to receive such a high honor from Secretary Evans."

Farr has been an active participant in hazardous chemical spill issues for the past twenty years. In 1973, Farr earned a bachelor's degree in chemistry from Pacific University. He later earned a doctorate degree in chemistry from the University of Georgia, Athens, Ga. Since 1990, Farr has been working for NOAA Ocean Service's Office of Response and Restoration in Seattle.

Prior to his employment with NOAA, Farr worked as a consultant to the Environmental Protection Agency and owned his own chemical consulting firm for several years. Farr resides with his family in Seattle.

The Chemical Reactivity Worksheet can be freely downloaded from the Internet at

NOAA's Ocean Service, an agency of the Department of Commerce, is dedicated to exploring, understanding, conserving, and restoring the nation's coasts and oceans. The ocean service balances environmental protection with economic prosperity in fulfilling its mission of promoting safe navigation, supporting coastal communities, sustaining coastal habitats and mitigating coastal hazards.

To learn more about the ocean service, please visit