About this chapter

Undergraduate students studying environmental science come from a wide variety of academic backgrounds. Some have quite advanced chemical knowledge, while others have almost none. Whatever your background, we want you to understand some of the chemical details encountered in environmental issues and problems. To do this you will need some basic understanding of fundamental chemistry. As a rule, we find most students like to learn a particular aspect of chemistry where they need it to understand a specific problem. Learning material for a specific application is much easier than wading through pages of what can seem rather dull or irrelevant facts. Consequently much of the basic chemistry is distributed throughout the book in boxes, sited where the concept is first needed to understand a term or process.

Some of the basic chemistry is, however, so fundamental—underpinning most sections of the book—that we describe it here in a dedicated chapter. We have laid out enough information for students with little or no chemistry background to get a foothold into the subject. You may only need to 'dip' into this material. We certainly don't expect you to read this chapter from beginning to end. Imagine the contents here as tools in a toolbox. Take out the tool (= facts, laws, etc.) you need to get the job (= understanding an aspect of environmental chemistry) done. Some of you will not need to read this chapter at all, and can move on to the more exciting parts of the book!

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