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Chemistry involves more than the mere fact that that it entails the making of new combinations of chemical elements. It makes new combinations of industries and brings together different countries besides the chemical elements. It brings international competition, which results into the development of international cooperation.
Chemistry improves everyday life of millions of people around the globe. It helps in the protection of the environment, development of new live saving, medicine, design new materials for cars, electronics as well as medical implants. It has also played a pivotal role in the development of greener and more sustainable sources of energy.
Besides its usefulness, it has generated certain problems not only to the people but also to the environment. This paper focuses on the application of chemistry in life as well as some of the hazards that it has presented to life.
The application of chemistry in life
As the world’s population grows, some chemists are embarking on finding new ways of feeding the populations i.e. producing food. The senior vice president for chemical and physical sciences at DuPont Merck Pharmaceutical Company asserts that genetic engineering could lead to the development of saltwater-tolerant plants that will grow food in most saline places (Zare 7).
Genetic engineering has also been applied in the production of drought resistant crops that have helped in increasing food security especially in the developing and third world countries. Other than genetic engineering, chemists have employed other means of increasing the supply of food to many nations.
Hydrolyzing wood pulp has played a pivotal role in transforming it into a fermentable substance that is used in the production of alcohol. For many years, the production of alcohol has been the main goal for the process. Recent research has led to the realization of more useful food elements. The action of highly concentrated hydrochloric acid transforms wood pulp into soluble carbohydrates and finally into wood pulp. Based on laboratory results, the process yields 75 parts of crude foodstuffs that contain 85% of pure carbohydrates (Slosson 324).
This means the process can extract 60% of the carbohydrates in dry wood. The product proved to be high in nutritive value to not only animal feed but also to food. Furthermore, chemistry has played a pivotal role in the development of fertilizers that enhance productivity if crops thus help in achieving food security in the world. Moreover, for food security to be attained there must be a method that prolongs the shelf life of the food products. Food preservatives enhance a prolonged shelf life of most agricultural products.
The knowledge of chemistry has enabled researchers to come up with drugs for addressing not only human but also animal diseases. The medicine that patients receive form health care institutions is all products of chemistry. It is noteworthy that drugs that are more efficient are continually being invented. China’s research and development in biotechnology and biopharmaceutical has prioritized genetic breeding of high-yield and high-quality crops, transgenic technology and animal cloning (Chen et al. 950).
Additionally, they have embarked on gene- and protein-engineered vaccines and drugs, gene therapy and drug discovery and development. Through the advanced technological advancements, there has been the development of new drugs that enable medical practitioners to treat certain diseases that have been challenging in history. Some of the advancements include the therapeutic hepatitis B vaccine, gene-engineered HBV antigen-antibody complex as well as artificial blood substitutes.
Chemical products that are available in the market such as disinfectants help in fighting disease-causing agents. They also help keep water secure. The water treatment process that makes water safe for consumption is mainly a series of chemical reactions (Hoffman 141). Chemistry is also essential in the textile industry e.g. during the bleaching processes. This also applies in the paper industry.
It also helps in establishing international relations through trade of chemical substances and technologies. It has led to the breakdown of natural monopoly while promoting national independence. For instance, approximately two decades ago one could say that Chile had a natural monopoly of the world’s supply of nitrates. Different nations have tapped into new ways of meeting their need of nitrates. One of the main ways that nations have achieved this is by the utilization of nitrogen from the nitrogen of the air through fixation.
The dangers of chemistry to life
According to Wilson and Schwarzman (1203), in the last five decades, synthetic chemicals have become integrated into nearly all industrial processes and the commercial products and they constitute the material base of the contemporary society. There has been an enormous growth in the production of synthetic chemicals.
For instance, statistics show that the U.S. reported having produced approximately 15 trillion pounds of chemical substances in 2002. In 2005, there was a high record of chemicals with chemical manufacturers having produced nearly 27 trillion pounds off chemicals. There were more than six thousand types of chemicals reported.
All the chemicals that are produced are directly or indirectly. Some of them are used in industrial processes as well as in the production of products for human consumption. Research has shown that “global chemical production is projected to continue growing-about 3% per year with a doubling rate of 24 years, rapidly outpacing the rate of global population growth” (Wilson and Schwarzman, 1203). The global increasing trend in the production of chemicals will lead to a similar increase in the hazards associated with such chemicals.
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Almost everyone in the world has an encounter with many chemicals in everyday life due to the wide distribution of chemicals throughout the economy and the environment. This occurs in different scenarios such as in the work place, in homes, through the air, food, water as well as waste streams.
Bio-monitoring experts have reported that there has been an increase in the exposure of industrial chemicals as well as pollutants. The Center for Disease Control has confirmed the presence of certain pollutants as well as synthetic chemicals in the body of over 140 U.S civilians (a representative sample of the U.S population). Such bio-accumulative chemicals pose a great threat to the lives of the victims since most of them have proven to be carcinogenic.
Some individuals are victims of early life exposure of some of the hazardous chemicals. For some individuals it occurs via the placenta. Once the chemicals get into the fetus’ body system, they tend to accumulate and this has detrimental effects not only to the mother but also to the fetus. Medical practitioners have argued that such accumulation of chemical in the fetus interfere with the normal and healthy development of the baby (Woodhouse and Breyman, 220).
Additionally, such early exposure to chemicals during the developmental stages is associated with some cases of cancers, asthma as well as developmental disorders. According to Wilson and Schwarzman, the prenatal exposure of synthetic chemicals as well as their accumulation is the cause of some of the common abnormalities of the male reproductive system (1204).
Most industrial workers are usually exposed to the risk of having certain occupational diseases. As compared to individuals whose line of work is not within the chemical industry, the industrial workers have a higher probability of being exposed to dangerous or rather hazardous chemicals.
Over 40,000 cases of asthma (on an annual basis) in the European continent are associated with exposure of the victims to workplace chemicals. This is also true for dermatitis cases. The prevalence of such diseases can be reduced by improving the safety of work place chemicals. It would also reduce 4,300 cases of cancer per year.
Technological advancements in chemistry have also exposed humanity to hazardous waste. For instance in 2007 in California, there were cases of underground water contamination/pollution (Wilson and Schwarzman 1204). It was caused by the direct leakage of hazardous chemical wastes into the underground water sources.
This poses a threat-what the Department of Toxic Substances Control calls a major threat to human health or the environment. Most of the hazardous chemicals at the disposal sites are known dermatogens, neurotoxicants and carcinogens. Such incidences pose not only health but also environmental concerns to the communities that live in such neighborhoods.
The paper has discussed the application of chemistry in life as well as some of the hazards that it has presented to life. It aids the provision of solutions to some of the challenges of the 21st century. They include improving human health, finding sustainable sources of energy as well as protecting the environment.
Additionally, it has helped in addressing some of the problems that come with the advancement of technology in almost all the sectors of the economy. However, it has some life threatening effects to people besides being potentially disastrous to the environment. For instance, most of the synthetic chemicals are harmful to human health e.g. by being carcinogenic.
Chen, Zhu. Et al. “Life Sciences and Biotechnology in China.” Philosophical Transactions: Biological Sciences 362. 1482 (2007): 947-957. Print.
Hofmann, Mary. “Science of Everyday Things: Real Life Chemistry/ Science of Everyday Things: Real Life Physics.” School Library Journal 48.8 (2002): 141-143. Print.
Slosson, Edwin. “Chemistry Alters International Relations.” The Science-Newsletter 14. 398(1988): 323-324. Print.
Wilson, Michael, and Schwarzman, Megan. “Health Policy: Toward A New U.S Chemicals Policy: Rebuilding the Foundation to Advance New Science, Green Chemistry, and Environmental Health.” Environmental Health Perspectives 117.8(2009): 1202-1209. Print.
Woodhouse, Edward, and Breyman, Steve. “Green Chemistry as Social Movement?” Science, Technology, & Human Values 30.2 (2005): 199-222. Print.
Zare, Richard. “A Golden Age for Chemistry.” The Futurist 32.6 (1998): 7-9. Print.