April 22, 2013 - Chemists Celebrate Earth Day

Oooh! Do you want the water you drink and the air you breathe to be full of chemicals?

Since the first Earth Day in 1970, awareness of environmental problems and the importance of a clean environment has increased. And everybody—not just chemists—can celebrate Earth Day, of course. (Check out this and this other earlier post.)

But the American Chemical Society decided in 2003 that they could celebrate the Earth a little bigger and a little better, so it has ever since sponsored Earth Day events and provided educational resources.

Now, to answer my question: Actually, the water we drink and the air we breathe ARE chemicals, in that they are compounds created by (natural) chemical processes.

This is important: There are chemicals that are healthy for humans and other living things, and there are chemicals that are UNhealthy.

Many, many compounds in the world are formed naturally, of course. Most people use the word chemical to mean compounds created deliberately by scientists—or accidentally by manufacturing, or by people burning things, or by other human activities.

Remember, many substances (chemicals) created in nature are healthy for humans / living things, but other natural substances are unhealthy. Ditto for the chemicals created by humans. Some good, others bad.

Chemists Celebrate Earth Day is devoted to all the efforts that chemists undergo to make the Earth a better, cleaner place. Here are some of the projects chemists have worked on and are working harder than ever on:
  • Making better plastic that takes less oil and water to produce, that is recyclable, that is biodegradable, and so forth.
  • Making better, cleaner-burning fuels.
  • Making phosphate-free detergents.
  • Environmental monitoring.
  • Green chemistry research on ways to make manufacturing, waste-disposal, and energy-harvesting more sustainable and less polluting.
  • Better insulation, which reduces energy use in buildings.
  • New lighting technologies.
  • Wind turbines, solar cells, and fuel cells for electric cars all need materials produced by the chemical industry.

This year's celebration has the theme Our Earth: Handle With Care. The official ACS website has an illustrated poem contest for kids, a link to local Earth Day events, and resources that include a “kid-friendly, hands-on activity publication.”

Here is one example of kids learning about environmental chemistry. 

And here is the Chem4Kids article on environmental chemistry. 

Also on this date:

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