Posts related to environmental isses

Pesticides and Cognitive Development

The womb is a factory. It is here that chemicals are assembled into a living machine of incredible complexity called a baby. Where do these chemicals come from? Mommy! She eats and she drinks. She processes the proteins, fats, carbs, minerals and vitamins she ingests to provide the building blocks needed by the growing embryo. But what if a monkey wrench gets thrown into the machinery at this point? [To read more click on Title.]

Polycarbonate is Polyfunctional

You really have to do something major to have a street named after you. You can thrill the world with music, you can make an impact in politics, you can become a star athlete, or like Daniel Fox, you can invent a plastic. Dan Fox Drive in Pittsfield Massachusetts is a tribute to the man who gave the world polycarbonate, a plastic that was to profoundly alter our lives. [To read more click on Title.]

Copper Sulphate, Swimming Pools and Vineyards

Algae often invade swimming pools and make for greenish, cloudy water. A very small amount of copper sulfate added to the water improves the clarity and makes the pool more inviting. There is another benefit: the use of copper sulphate will cut down on the amount of chlorine or bromine used to disinfect the pool. Copper sulphate at such dilutions is an extremely safe substance and has been given a clean bill of health... [To read more click on Title.]

The Chemical Defense of the Bombardier Beetle

Based on their ability to discharge “chemical bombs” when threatened, bombardier beetles are aptly named. Beetles are different from other insects in that while they can fly, they cannot do so instantly. Their wings are stored under wing covers and have to be released before they can take to the air. Sort of like Clark Kent having to shed his everyday clothes before becoming Superman. [To read more click on Title.]

Swimming in Stearyl Alcohol

Nobody likes to swim in cold water but heating a pool is expensive. Solar blankets can help, but it’s a pain to drag them on and off. But how about a liquid pool cover? Believe it or not, that‘s a possibility! Just throw a plastic dispenser of stearyl alcohol into the water, usually in the shape of a fish, and you can cut down on heat loss. The stearyl alcohol, released at a controlled rate by a microprocessor in the dispenser, rises to the surface... [To read more click on Title.]

Sulphites in the Dishwasher

Have you ever wondered why detergents for automatic dishwashers contain sodium sulphite? It has nothing to do with cleaning dishes. The sulphite protects the dishwasher! Iron reacts with oxygen to form ferric oxide which is better known as rust. This reaction proceeds more readily at high temperatures, as found in washing machines. Where does the oxygen come from? It is dissolved in water. [To read more click on Title.]

Air Bag Chemistry

How can automobile airbags inflate in a few milliseconds? With some clever chemistry! When sodium azide, NaN3, is ignited by a spark, it releases nitrogen gas which can instantly inflate an airbag. The problem, however, is that the reaction also forms sodium metal which reacts with moisture to generate sodium hydroxide, a highly corrosive substance. A burst airbag can therefore wreak havoc. Chemical ingenuity, however, comes to the fore. [To read more click on Title]


I like statistics - at least the ones that make sense. One oft-quoted phrase about these mathematical manipulations is:‘There are lies, damn lies - and statistics’. This has been attributed to Mark Twain, Benjamin Disraeli and Winston Churchill (amongst others), although it seems that Churchill only wished he had coined the remark. Statistics are used by just about everyone... [To read more click on Title.]

Chemical Structure

“Chemical structure” is a phrase that is not often heard unless one is in a chemistry class. Yet, it is the specific arrangement of atoms in a molecule, its “structure,” that governs its properties. Most people have heard of benzene, a natural constituent of crude oil and a known carcinogen. (Benzine, a mixture of hydrocarbon molecules like gasoline is a different substance). Benzene has six carbon atoms bound in a hexagonal arrangement... [To read more click on Title]

Organophosphate Concerns

In 1939, Gerhard Schrader, a German chemist, was searching for better methods to control insects when he chanced upon a substance, chemically an organophosphate, that had greater insecticidal activity than anything he had ever seen. He named the new compound "Tabun" and envisioned a breakthrough for agriculture. Hitler, however, had something else in mind for the newly developed substance. If it could kill pests, it could also kill people... [To read more click on Title.]

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