Excuse me, can you direct me to the nearest National Historic Chemical Landmark?

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There's something inherently funny (if not annoying) about "National Historic Chemical Landmarks," but organizers of the American Chemical Society convention at McCormick Place in March came up with five landmarks conferees can visit. Three of them are hours out of town -- two downstate (in Urbana and Peoria) and one on the far side of Indianapolis (in Greencastle).

In the Chicago area there's only Universal Oil Products' Riverside Laboratory in McCook, where scientists patented almost 9,000 commercial applications of petroleum between 1921 and '55 -- and Hull House, home base of pioneer industrial toxicologist and occupational-health physician Alice Hamilton. One landmark for the polluter, one for the pollution fighter. Hey, it all goes into the GDP.

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