Do you think we possess enough theoretical knowledge and a sufficient instrumental basis for the effective functioning of this branch of chemistry?
Environmental chemistry is the scientific study of the chemical and biochemical phenomena that occur in natural places. It should not be confused with green chemistry, the latter seeking to reduce potential pollution at its source. It can be defined as the study of the sources, reactions, transport, effects, and fates of chemical species in the air, soil, and water environments; and the effect of human activity on these. Environmental chemistry is an interdisciplinary science that includes atmospheric, aquatic and soil chemistry, as well as heavily relying on analytical chemistry and being related to environmental and other areas of science.
Environmental chemistry involves first understanding how the uncontaminated environment works, which chemicals in what concentrations are present naturally, and with what effects. Without this it would be impossible to accurately study the effects humans have on the environment through the release of chemicals.
Quantitative chemical analysis is a key part of environmental chemistry, since it provides the data that frame most environmental studies. Common analytical techniques used for quantitative determinations in environmental chemistry include classical wet chemistry, such as gravimetric, titrimetric and electrochemical methods. More sophisticated approach is used in the determination of trace metals and organic compounds. Metals are commonly measured by atomic spectroscopy and mass spectrometry: Atomic Absorption Spectrometry (AAS) and Inductively Coupled Plasma Atomic Emission (ICP-AES) or Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometric (ICP-MS) techniques. Organic compounds are commonly measured also using mass spectrometric methods, such as Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (GC/MS) and Liquid Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (LC/MS). Non-MS methods using GCs and LCs having universal or specific detectors are still staples in the arsenal of available analytical tools. Other parameters often measured in environmental chemistry are radiochemicals. These are pollutants which emit radioactive materials, such as alpha and beta particles, posing danger to human health and the environment. Particle counters and Scintillation counters are most commonly used for these measurements, bioassays and immunoassays being utilized for toxicity evaluations of chemical effects on various organisms.
Ecological problems of the modern world are becoming more and more public and this is the reason why ecology has become very much "public term" despite its originally scientific character. Itís a great pity that homocentric system by which all natural goods are used just for human exploit is still very much present in world's philosophy, number of supporters of ecocentric system based on ecosystem rising as well. The lack of concern for our planet is the main reason why there are today so many endangered species and why pollution can be seen in all corners of the world. People still do not have so much needed ecological conscience and do not see that they are the only ones responsible for salvation of our planet. It is probably too painful to admit our own mistakes and try to fix them before it is too late. Some small steps have been already taken but it will take much more these steps on the global level in order to make the difference.
To succeed, we do not need some extreme strategy to return the world to the time before James Watt and the first industrial revolution, giving away all the benefits of modern technology. On the contrary, our modern technologies should be used in the way that would enable peaceful coexistence between ecology and industry, the emphasis being primarily set on the use of energy resources that have the lowest negative impact on the environment. These renewable energy resources are, for instance, wind, water and sun.
Current technologies could be wisely used to prevent ecological disasters and endangering animal species, as well as, entire development of ecosystem, and all we have to do is to turn technologies in these directions. At the same time ecological problems also require appropriate legislative support that should ban modern technologies that have a negative impact on the environment, and only allow those technologies that do not have, or have only a minimum negative impact on the environment. Passive observation is not sufficient, especially now when we have become witnesses of so many ecological disasters.
It is really time for one global action, and who knows maybe this is our only chance to save the Earth. So what are we waiting for?
WHAT DO ENVIRONMENTAL CHEMISTS DO?
Environmental chemists draw on a range of concepts from chemistry and various environmental sciences to assist in their study of what is happening to a chemical species in the environment. Important general concepts from chemistry include understanding chemical reactions and equations, solutions, units, sampling, and analytical techniques.
Environmental chemists are employed by environmental agencies and research bodies around the world to detect and identify the nature and source of pollutants. These can include:
∑ Heavy metal contamination of land by industry. These can then be transported into water bodies and be taken up by living organisms.
∑ Nutrients leaching from agricultural land into water courses, which can lead to algal blooms and eutrophication.
∑ Urban runoff of pollutants washing off impervious surfaces (roads, parking lots, and rooftops) during rain storms. Typical pollutants include gasoline, motor oil and other hydrocarbon compounds, metals, nutrients and sediment (soil).