In this chapter we have attempted to summarize the significant inorganic chemistry of the elements that have the greatest impact on humankind. As it turns out, many of these inorganic systems play vital organic/biochemical roles; sometimes essential for life, and sometimes toxic to it. Biological interactions with classical "inorganic" materials can have profound effects that have been recognized only comparatively recently. Examples include the meth-ylation of mercury and the bacterial oxidation of sulfides. Other inorganic processes can render a benign material toxic—for example, increased solubility of metal salts through pH changes or complex formation. Many other interactions still await understanding. In the following chapters, we will discuss in more detail some of the applications of these aspects of inorganic chemistry as they pertain to specific segments of the environment.

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