Sunday, 14 June 2015

A career to dye for

Careers in chemistry
Really, what in this world, isn’t chemistry? There’s so much to explore and you’ll never be bored in this department, so why not turn your passion into your daily life—and get paid for it? 

There are many interesting and unexpected career choices in the vast world of chemistry. One that caught my eye was dye chemists! Dye Chemists analyze and improve dyes. From clothing dyes, to nail polish, to food dyes, these chemists test and create them! Their main purpose is to find a recipe to create durable, consistent, pigmented, dyes with less side effects. You’ll never go through a day without being in contact with at least one object which has dye in it. So of course, we’ll always be in need of dyes. With the fast pacing industry the search for better and more sustainable pigments. 

I personally think this career is such an interesting choice! Who wouldn’t want to conduct research on new ways to improve colour—a large part of our everyday lives! What do you think? Do you think that this is really a good amount of time spent or is there other more seemingly important matters? 

You are what you eat!

Eating local: Gases and atmospheric chem

When you go to the grocery store and see the local section and throw something in your cart for an extra 3 dollars you get the satisfaction of helping your local farmers. But now you can also give yourself a pat on the back because buying local reduces you carbon footprint! It is actually the best and easiest way to greatly reduce your carbon foot print. (Nazak 2012) 

By making our diet consist of local products, we can cut the major environmental costs of the greenhouse gases emitted by food transportation, also known by “Food miles” (the distance from the time of a food’s production until it reaches its consumer). This concept has been introduced in the 1990s and has only been increasing since. This is due to the globalization of trade; food supply bases in fewer, larger districts; and the major increase of packaged foods. These factors have led to a bigger need for more modes of delivery. Food miles create 83% of all emissions of CO2. (Weber, 2008) 

Often, people buy the cheapest product, which is not always the local stuff. So this leads us to the thought, what should be done to promote the local products? 
QOTD: What options are there that doesn’t inconvenience consumers and still promote local products? 

Golf courses aren't as green as you may think!

Golf courses are known for their pristine greens, never having a blade of grass yellow or a weed poking out. As you can imagine, it’s not just nature’s blessing, but they get a little help from fertilizer and pesticides. There are many environmental and ethical issues with the use of pesticides especially since there have been reports of chemical runoff into local water systems and contaminating both drinking water and wildlife habitats. (Malcom 2009) In 2013, a study was conducted on a Bahamian coral reef and found that due to the fertilizer from the sea side golf courses it has dramatically impacted the growth of algae. (Goreau 2013)

Firstly, I decided to do a little research on what fertilizer and pesticides were composed of to get a deeper understanding of the chemical breakdown. Fertilizer typically consists of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium elements which excel the growth rate of the vegetation. Pesticides consist of many dangerous chemicals such as arsenic, ammonia, benzene, chlorine, dioxins, ethylene oxide, methanol, and many other various substances to repel pests. (Tox Town 2015)
The contamination of the fertilizer into the coastal areas of Bakers Bay Golf Course in Guana Cay, Albaco resulted in new blooms of algae. (Goreau 2013) Although Bakers Bay insisted that it wasn’t their fault and that it was just natural caused by hurricanes or due to leakage form local sewage systems. (Goreau 2013) But after examination of water samples, there were traces of phosphorous in the water where it is normally limited in Guana Cay water, and the abundance is found near the golf course. 

The effect of an overgrowth of algae can result in an unbalanced and unhealthy ecosystem. This problem can be expected to be found in any tropical golf courses. To prevent this contamination, stronger water quality standards, monitoring, enforcement, improved fertilizer management, and planning controls would be needed. 
QOTD: So do you think that the environmental contamination is worth the luxury of a perfect putting green?  Should there be more laws preventing the construction of go courses near bodies of water, or just regulate the use of fertilizer and pesticides?

Sunday, 24 May 2015

[Ba]king [B]read

Who doesn’t love everything about freshly baked bread? From the mouth watering smell to the warm, soft fluffy dough, there’s really nothing you can complain about. But let’s admit it, at least once while baking bread we’ve all wondered what baking powder does and why we need this strange white substance.

Not much to my surprise, with a little bit of research we can figure out that baking powder is really just chemistry at it’s finest! Baking powder is used to make the dough rise, and without it, we would not have the fluffy consistency everybody knows and loves!  

Baking powder is a mixture of baking soda(Sodium Bicarbonate) and a dry acid(for example; sodium aluminum sulfate, cream of tartar). When liquid is added, these ingredients react to form bubbles of carbon dioxide gas-- which makes the dough rise!(How Baking Powder Works, Helminstine)

The balanced chemical reaction between the sodium bicarbonate(NaHCO3) and the cream of tartar(KHC4H4O6 ) is:
NaHCO3 + KHC4H4O6 → KNaC4H4O6 + H2O + CO2
(How Baking Powder Works, Helminstine)

Similarly for sodium bicarbonate and aluminum sulfate(NaAl(SO4)22):
3 NaHCO3 + NaAl(SO4)2 → Al(OH)3 + 2 Na2SO4 + 3 CO2
(How Baking Powder Works, Helminstine)

With power-- or should I say powder comes responsibility. If you add too much it can cause the bread/cake to taste bitter. It can also cause the dough to rise too quickly and collapse due to the air bubbles in the batter growing too large. But too little can result in a tough cake with poor volume and compact crumb.( Baking Powder and Baking Soda, Jaworski)\

QOTD: Yeast is also used to rise dough! Although they can be used for the same reasons, there are some large differences in between the two and at some instances they cannot be used interchangeably! Any thoughts on the comparison?

Thank you, please comment and if you would like to see the bibliography it will be updated on the  Resources post!

Sunday, 10 May 2015



Paper thin Environmental Concerns:

Will be updated every new blog post! Also the formatting will be updated in the near future :)

Paper Thin Environmental Concerns


Everyday we use paper to write down lists of things we are too lazy to do or maybe doodle on our homework handout but we don't really understand the process of how these rectangular 8"x11" sheets are made and the harm of the chemicals used in the making.

Paper Cutz 4 Plant Ark is an organization to reduce the amount of paper used in "low involvement" communications where the substitution of an electronic medium would be better suited. Their main focus is to reduce the amount of paper used and have many topics and discussions on the environmental impacts of paper manufacturing.       

In the article "Environmental Impacts of  Paper Manufacturing" topics such as the effects pre-manufacturing and post-use(in the landfills). Production of paper is a very chemical intensive process, it is also the largest industry user per tonne of product in the United States of America. (PaperCutz 4 PlanetArk, Environmental Impacts of  Paper Manufacturing) To top that, the pulp and paper industry ranks fourth among industrial sectors in emissions of Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) chemicals to water, and third in such releases to air. (PaperCutz 4 PlanetArk, Environmental Impacts of  Paper Manufacturing)

The chemicals used in paper manufacture, including dyes, inks, bleach, and sizing, can also be harmful to the environment when they are released into water supplies and nearby land after use. (How Products are Made: Paper) This can contaminate the water supply with chemicals for a variety uses such as bleaching(Sodium Dithionite, Sodium Hypochlorate, Sodium Peroxide, Sodium Thiosulfate, etc) In large concentrates, these chemicals can be proven lethal. (ToxNet) As one can assume, this is not a typically ideal substance to find in our drinking water.

PaperCutz 4 PlantArk also delves into the chemical effects of the paper when it ends up in the landfills. Once in a landfill, paper has the potential of decomposing and producing methane gas which goes into the atmosphere and contributes to the trapping of Carbon Monoxide in the atmosphere. (PaperCutz 4 PlanetArk, Environmental Impacts of  Paper Manufacturing) These side effects will be a little more harmful than a measly paper cut, that's for sure!

QOTD: So do you think that switching over to a more electronic communication medium is more effective and worth saving the environment from the chemicals? To what extent should we prioritize online resources as media instead of paper products?

Thank you! To see the Bibliography see the Resources post.


Sunday, 3 May 2015

Non-stick cookware, why does is matter?

Celeste Yuyitung

As a cooking enthusiast, I can definitely say that non-stick pans are a saving grace when it comes to cleaning and not having half of your meal stuck to your pot; but as a chemistry student, I would have to say that they are actually a large health risk.

How non stick cookware work is that the cooking surface is coated with polytetrafluoroethylene (abbreviated to PTFE), a type of fluoropolymer. The molecular makeup of a polymer is that it is a molecule makeup of the similar smaller molecules. In this case, fluorine atoms. These hold distinct characteristics of PTFE. Since fluorine's electron structure is very stable it does not want to share it's electrons, therefore making it's surface not very tacky. (Brown, How Nonstick Cookware Works) This is why it is advised not to use steel wool to clean non-stick pans, because you would then scrape off the layer of PTFE.

But how does such a chemical harm it's user? At high temperatures(about 550 degrees Fahrenheit/230 degrees Celsius) non-stick pans release gaseous fumes from another chemical used -- perfluooctanoic(PFTOA). (McClain, Eating Well) PFTOA is also found in most food packaging such as microwavable popcorn, water resistant clothing, and select building materials. Traces of PFTOA has been found with a variety of concentration in almost every american's blood. (McClain, Eating Well)

When exposed and inhaled, PFTOA can result in health symptoms such as:
  • Risk of liver, pancreatic, testicular and mammary gland tumors
  • Generalised damage to the immune system
  • Children’s health and development
  • Reproductive problems and birth defects
  • Flu like symptoms
(Corriher, The Dangers of Non-Stick Cookware)

Clearly there are many pros and cons to Non-stick cookware. There are also alternative non-stick pans with mineral coatings that do not use PFTOA or PTFE that can be easily found on amazon. But it might be time for that favourite teflon pan of yours to be put aside, there’s no point of it sticking around in your kitchen, unless you don’t mind the potential health risks that come with it. Obviously, not every american who has used and is currently using a non stick pan is going to die or become severely sick because of this, but it is definitely not a matter you would want to overlook.

QOTD:  Do you think there should be clearer warning labels on non-stick products and any packaging containing PFTFE and PFTOA? Do the pros of the usability outweigh the potential health risks?

Thank you for reading!

To see the bibliography, check the resources post that will be updated every entry!