Water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink

Water is everywhere around us, but honestly not many of us know much about it. How does it get to our homes? What is the process of cleaning it? How do I know if the water is safe to drink? Whats going on in Flint, MI? Whats so different about fancy commercial waters? These are all good questions with varying importance and chemistry can help answer all of them.

 

The process in purifying water provided to peoples homes is a long but important one. The water is initially collected from mostly groundwater, reservoirs or rivers. Then the water is passed through a system of grilles to remove the large pieces of debris. However there is still much purifying left to be done. To remove the organic matter we add coagulants to the water, to neutralize the organic matter and makes them clump together so that they can be removed. These coagulants are typically aluminum sulfate. The water is then filtrated. This stage consist of moving the water through beds of carbon, sand and gravel to get ride of unwanted compounds. Often times the water at this point can have too high (0r less commonly too low) acidity. To decrease the acidity the water can be sent through limestone. It can be important to add anti-corrosives to the water to protect the pipes they travel through. This has proven to be critical recently in Flint, Michigan. Chlorine is then added too kill any bacteria or viruses left in the water.

 

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image from: 

The Chemistry Behind Your Home’s Water Supply

A huge problem that has gained much attention in the media recently is the poor quality of water in Flint, Michigan. Many people know that the lead levels are too high but not many know the reasons behind why. Flint decided to switch from getting its water from the Detroit River to the Flint River. However, the Flint River has a much higher level of chloride ions due to street salt runoff. This causes a problem because these ions can dissolve the pipes that transport the water and thus create far too high lead levels for human consumption. This problem was then magnified when E. Coli was found in the water and more chlorine had to be added to fight this bacteria. This added amount of chlorine lead to higher levels of trihalomethanes. To attempt to lower the levels of trihalomethanes ferric chloride was added. These added chemicals raised the corrossive levels of the Flint River water to be more than 8 times that of the Detroit River. This clearly causes a huge problem as a whole city of people are without water that is safe for them to drink.

 

Flint-Water-Crisis
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Lead in the Water – The Flint Water Crisis

Learning about the chemistry of the water purification process is both interesting and important. It gives one a deeper sense of appreciation understanding the long and chemistry filled process it takes to deliver water to our taps. It also is important so that once problems like those in Flint Michigan arise we know what is really going on and hopefully how to fix it.

 

We have learned about tap water, but what about more commercial brands of water?  Smart water for example, what makes it so much different that people will pay nearly five dollars a gallon for it? Well according to sidehustlenation.com , honestly not much is different. The purification process for Smart water is more or less the same as what we have just learned about. The only significant difference is that Smart water has added electrolytes to help the taste. So being more education on the process of cleaning water, and how it can go wrong, and having a very basic understanding of commercial water one can now make better decisions in what they choose to drink. Are you willing to pay more for water that is basically just as healthy for you but taste a little better?  Some would say yes! For me, I’ll keep Smart Water only for special occasions.

 

Sources:

What Makes SmartWater Smart?

The Chemistry Behind Your Home’s Water Supply

Lead in the Water – The Flint Water Crisis

 

 

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Water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink

Maybe Chemistry Does Matter

Here I was sitting in Chem class for the fifth week straight and then it hit me. “Why does any of this matter?” I have to say my unenlightened self thought this was a perfectly valid question. I had gone this far in my life not knowing chemistry and I had been doing just fine, how big of a difference could it really make? Then one day all of that changed.

I walked into my 8am chem lab just like any week, but I didn’t know what was in store for me. I started listening to presentation after presentation about the different places in life where we find chemistry and I realized chemistry might be all around us. “Whatever”, I thought this wont change how I live my life.

But I was wrong.. A girl in my class got up and started telling us about the chemistry in coffee. I was so surprised of many of the things I learned of my favorite drink. There are over 800 different chemicals in coffee and many are beneficial to us. They are full of antioxidants which help prevent Alzheimer, cancer and diabetes. They help kill bacteria in our intestines. And as a college student I found that the biggest benefits of coffee was that the caffeine helps keep us alert, it reduces alcohol cravings and the aroma and prevent stress.

diff-types-coffee

http://www.innovativeos.com/brew-a-better-cup-of-coffee/

The most interesting thing I learned was that darker brewed coffee is of course brewed longer and this makes it lose much of its healthy chemicals that give us all of the positive effects listed before. It was suggested to drink lighter roast coffee so that one can reap all of the benefits that coffee has to offer us. That did it for me, chemistry made a difference in my life. Because I plan on living a long time the last three times I have gotten coffee at the Grill I have switched from dark to light roast.

Chemistry didn’t stop affecting my life there. The next presentation that grabbed my attention was about the chemistry of chocolate. We all know that chocolate isn’t good for you. I thought so also but that isn’t quite the whole truth. Chocolate in its pure form has many benefits similar to coffee such as caffeine and antioxidants as well as anandamide which makes us feel happy, phenylethylamine which mimics the feeling of being in love.

Ok, so maybe chocolate isn’t all bad. Why do we have this conception then? Well it is because the chocolate we have here in the states has so much added sugar and other ingredients and so little of the original cocoa that there is few positive chemicals left. Instead we are eating a ton of sugar which isn’t nearly as good for us. Once again chemistry affected my life.

chocolate

source: http://i.kinja-img.com/gawker-media/image/upload/s–Mmpm8jso–/17i2k33n4gfzwpng.png

I was impressed by a third presentation. It was about artistic chemistry. This came as no big surprise, of course there is chemistry in art. I learned of a new technique called Raku Pottery. It is the art of covering pottery in a glaze and rapidly heating and cooling it to create a reduction-oxidation reaction yielding copper and carbon which gives the pottery a organic variety of colors which looks very beautiful.

raku

Raku Pottery

Chemistry is also seen in stained glass. The artist wraps the glass in copper foil and uses hydrochoric acid to remove and oxidize the copper to create different colors then solders all of the glass pieces together. This understanding of chemistry in art gave me a whole new appreciation for the art that we see often.

Not only did I learn about how chemistry affects everyday life but I also learned about tactics for a good presenter. A good presenter first has to be knowledgeable of their topic. A good visual presentation always helps but more important than that is confidence in what you’re talking about. This makes it seem like you really know what you’re talking about. Plus confidence usually allows one to talk louder and clearer which is extremely important for presentations. I learned a lot about chemistry and presentation in lab the other day.

 

 

 

Maybe Chemistry Does Matter

What is Dr. Dan’s Chemical Free Sunscreen?

I started off this weekend like I do every weekend, shopping for sunscreen. I came across a new brand that I have never encountered before. Dr. Dan’s “chemical free” sunscreen developed by a leading dermatologist, and I was instantly sold.

Sunscreen

Once I got home and applied my new sun block I started to wonder, “What does Dr. Dan really mean by chemical free? Was he actually able to create a sunscreen using no chemicals? If so what exactly is in my new sunscreen?” Of course I had to do some research to find the answers to my questions.

quizzicalDog

On pondering these questions I remembered my Chem 131 class earlier in the week and I learned that all material is made up of chemicals. My first instinct then was to call Dr. Dan a liar. But I resisted, I decided to try to hear Dr. Dan out and understand what he meant by “chemical free”. After all he is a leading dermatologist maybe I could learn a thing or two.

I found out that maybe he was trying to convey a different message because clearly this product can not be chemical free. Everything has chemicals in it. Rather, everything is chemicals! I believe that Dr. Dan was using a marketing technique that is not quite true. He was trying to tell his customers that his product was safe. He wanted them all to know that there are no harmful chemicals in his sunscreen. He did not want people to worry about the effects of the sunscreen that they would be putting on their skin. He is a dermatologist producing sunscreen, obviously he cares about keeping skin healthy. He would not want there to be anything bad in his product. Actually this product is made of all natural chemicals.

He could have used many other expressions rather than “chemical free” to convey his message to his customers, because this term is clearly not true. If it was chemical free it would just be a bottle of a perfect vacuum and that clearly will not help protect anyone from the sun. I believe Dr. Dan should have used a different marketing technique like saying, “all natural” or “no harmful chemicals”. That would have been more accurate and conveyed the same message without annoying the chemist of the community.

So why did this happen? We see products all the time that make these claims. If you walk through a super store you will see makeups, lotions, shampoos, even foods often claiming to be chemical free. This is just to warn the people that these products are safe because we are scared of harmful chemicals as we should be. We want to take care of our bodies as best we can and there are plenty of chemicals that are not good for us. However, this term “chemical free” should not be used because it is not accurate. It can confuse many people that have not had the basics of chemistry explained to them, unlike those lucky enough to be enrolled in Chem 131.

What is Dr. Dan’s Chemical Free Sunscreen?