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Page history last edited by PBworks 16 years, 12 months ago

C12. Chemicals can interfere with cell metabolism.

Student Outcome: C12.1

Discuss possible benefits and/or harmful effects of chemicals that human beings use.


  • Harmful


Over the past century humans have introduced a large number of chemical substances into the environment. Some are the waste from industrial and agricultural processes. Some have been designed as structural materials and others have been designed to perform various functions such as healing the sick or killing pests and weeds. Obviously some chemicals are useful but many are toxic and their harm to the environment and our health far outweighs their benefit to society. We need to manage the risks better by only using chemicals, which are safe.


Chemicals enter air as emissions and water as effluent. Industrial and motor vehicle emissions of nitrogen and sulphur oxides cause acid rain, which poisons fish and other aquatic organisms in rivers and lakes and affects the ability of soil to support plants. Carbon dioxide causes the greenhouse effect and climate change. Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) cause the destruction of ozone in the stratosphere and create the possibility of serious environmental damage from ultraviolet radiation. Chemical fertilisers and nutrients run-off from farms and gardens cause the build up of toxic algae in rivers, making them uninhabitable to aquatic organisms and unpleasant for humans. Some toxic chemicals find their way from landfill waste sites into our groundwater, rivers and oceans and induce genetic changes that compromise the ability of life to reproduce and survive.


The impact of human activities on the environment is complex and affects a chain of interconnecting ecosystems. The extinction of species all along the chain may mean the loss of useful genetic material or life saving cancer drugs or safer alternatives to the dangerous chemicals in use at the moment.


Source: http://www.planetagenda.com/chemicals.htm


  • Useful




Food additives e.g. preservatives

Medicines in general


Cleaning products

Pesticides and weedicides


Paints, dyes and pigments

Soaps, detergents and shampoos

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