Changes are afoot under the earth and sky

Environmental Chemistry
March 2, 2001

Environmental Chemistry: A Global Perspective will serve as an excellent resource for students and teachers. One of its most notable features is the way in which the authors constantly draw the reader back to the underlying chemical principles. These are described very clearly and at a level entirely appropriate for undergraduate students.

SI units are used throughout the text, other units that are in common use being introduced and explained where necessary.

The authors have achieved their goal of demonstrating the development of environmental chemistry as an established field within the wider discipline of chemistry. Their book, with its process-driven approach to the subject, will develop students' understanding of key concepts. The subheading truly reflects the range of issues considered and the examples used to illustrate environmental issues.

The content of the book admirably demonstrates the breadth of the subject and emphasises the links with physical, inorganic and organic chemistry.

The text is structured to reflect the major subdivision of the topic according to the states of matter, commencing with the earth's atmosphere, followed by the hydrosphere and the terrestrial environment. Atmospheric chemistry, as is common with many texts in this field, is given thorough consideration. The section includes chapters that deal with the structure and functioning of the atmosphere, greenhouse gases, ozone in the stratosphere and troposphere, photochemical smog and acid rain.

Separate chapters deal with atmospheric aerosols, urban and indoor atmospheres and the role of the atmosphere in climate control.

A broad range of topics is considered within the context of the hydrosphere. The reader is introduced to the chemical principles and approaches before being shown how gases, organic matter and metals are distributed and controlled in the aquatic environment. Links to the section on the terrestrial environment are developed in the treatment of colloids and surfaces, microbial processes and water pollution and waste-water treatment. The terrestrial environment focuses mainly on the chemistry of soils.

Although the material discussed is highly relevant and appropriate, the extent of coverage and the links between the chapters are less developed than in the other two sections of the book. The physical and chemical properties of soils are dealt with first, followed by chapters describing wastes from mining, organic wastes and mixed wastes from the urban environment.

Curiously, although the final chapter is titled "Biocides", the content is largely confined to the chemistry of pesticides.

This text is a welcome addition to the environmental chemistry literature. The authors return time and again to consider the underlying "core chemistry" and in doing so will reinforce the student's appreciation of, and enthusiasm for, chemistry as a whole. Students are taught to appreciate the importance of thermodynamics, kinetics, reaction mechanisms, photochemistry, partition coefficients, ion exchange and catalysis.

The many other fundamental aspects of chemistry that this text illustrates so well will ensure that students are better equipped to solve the future challenges that await them.

Brendan Keely is lecturer in chemistry, University of York.

Environmental Chemistry: A Global Perspective. First edition

Author - Gary W. van Loon and Stephen J. Duffy
ISBN - 0 19 856440 6
Publisher - Oxford University Press
Price - £23.99
Pages - 492

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