Preface

The predecessor to this book originated in the 1970s as notes to a junior/senior level course in "Chemistry of the Environment" that the authors developed at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in response to the interest in environmental concerns developing at that time. The present volume is an updated and expanded version of the original book published in 1978 and used ever since.

Major changes in environmental problems have occurred in the years since the publication of the first edition, including the ozone and global warming concerns, the nuclear power plant meltdown at Chernobyl in 1986, and the world's worst oil spills in Kuwait and the Persian Gulf in 1991. Although this second edition of the book refers to these and other disasters, and was written with current environmental topics in mind, it retains an emphasis on the principles of environmental chemistry, not on specific catastrophes. Significant alterations in coverage have been made in a number of topics to reflect these dynamics. For example, there is less discussion of the atmospheric chemical reactions of hydrocarbons in Chapter 6 because hydrocarbons have become a less serious environmental problem in the United States as a result of the mandated use of the catalytic converter on the exhaust systems of automobiles. The chapters on polymers and surfactants were combined into one chapter and follow the chapter on petroleum because the major pathways for the environmental degradation of these three classes of organics is by microorganisms and the reaction steps are similar in many instances. The separate chapter on pheromones was removed and an abridged version of this material has been added to the chapter dealing with pesticides because pheromones have not achieved the potential for insect control forecast for them in the 1970s. New material on environmental hormones has been included, and a new chapter on recycling has been added. The material dealing with the chemistry of particular elements of environmental concern has been expanded, and the material on nuclear chemistry redone. The latter we feel is particularly important in view of the possible resurgence of nuclear energy and the general (low) level of understanding of it. We have tried to avoid an excessive focus on U.S. concerns.

This book is intended as a text, but also as a reference book to provide a background to those who need an understanding of the chemical basis of many environmentally important processes. As a text, it is probably too extensive to be covered completely in a single course, but in our own use we have found that particular chapters and sections can be selected according to the topics desired. We have attempted to group chapters in a way that is suitable for this. In some cases, this has resulted in different aspects of some topics being covered in different chapters. We do not believe that this has led to either excessive fragmentation or redundancy. As either a text or reference, the reader will need some chemistry background; we have not attempted to write this book at a beginning level. Besides a good grounding in general chemistry, some knowledge of organic chemistry is needed for the sections dealing with organic compounds.

The objective of the book is to deal with the chemical principles and reactions that govern the behavior of both natural environmental systems and anthropogenic compounds important in the environment, although obviously it is a general coverage and does not pretend to go deeply into specialty areas such as marine chemistry or geochemistry. From time to time we may have stretched the scope of chemistry a bit—for example, we deal with atmospheric circulation because this is important to understanding some of the consequences of atmospheric chemistry—and we mention some nonchemical energy sources for completeness.

The book starts with a discussion of the atmosphere, leading into chapters on photochemistry and other atmospheric chemical reactions. Three chapters deal with the environmental chemistry of organic compounds of important types, including petroleum, detergents, pesticides, and plastics. Following sections deal mainly with water and the inorganic chemistry in natural water systems, including the environmental chemistry of selected elements, followed by a brief chapter on the lithosphere. Two chapters deal with nuclear chemistry in some detail. Other chapters deal with energy and recycling. Where appropriate, we have made reference to recent scientific publications, mainly in footnotes, and have suggested additional reading at the end of each chapter, but we have made no effort to give extensive literature coverage. We have included a few references to information on the Internet, which can be a valuable source of data if care is taken to use reliable sources such as governmental agencies and to remember that much material is not reviewed; some of it is just plain wrong. Exercises have been provided that can be used for self-study or for class assignments.

As in the original version, we have used the units that are commonly encountered in the literature dealing with particular fields, rather than rationalizing them to a standard such as SI units. We feel that this will better prepare the reader for further reading. We have included SI equivalents in many instances, and do provide a table of conversions and definitions that may help to make sense out of the many different units found.

R. A. Bailey H. M. Clark J. P. Ferris S. Krause R. L. Strong

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