Background Organic Chemistry

In Chapters 10-12, the most important environmental problems caused by toxic organic chemicals are discussed in detail. In this appendix, we provide some necessary background in organic chemistry for those students whose previous education has not included this subject.

The organic compounds of interest environmentally are mostly electrically neutral molecules containing covalent bonds. Stable compounds of this type inevitably involve the formation of four bonds by carbon; in carbon-centered free radicals, they form three bonds. Conceptually at least, chemists view all organic chemicals as "derived" from those simple organic compounds that contain only carbon and hydrogen, i.e., hydrocarbons. We shall follow this convention and divide our discussion into several sections, most of which deal with specific types of hydrocarbons.

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