1. Environmental pollution



• Environmental Chemistry
It is the branch of science which deals with the chemical changes in the environment. It includes our surroundings as air, water, soil, forest etc.
It is the effect of undesirable changes in our surroundings that have harmful effects on plants, animals and human beings.

• Pollutants
A substance, which causes pollution, is known as pollutant. Pollutants can be solid, liquid or gaseous substances. Present in higher concentration, it can be produced due to human activities or natural happenings.

2. Atmospheric pollution


• Troposphere
The lowest region of atmosphere, in which the human beings along with other organisms live, is called troposphere.
It extends to the height of about 10 km from the sea level. It contains air, water vapours, clouds etc. The pollution in this region is caused by some poisonous gases, smoke fumes, smog etc.

• Stratosphere
It extends from height of 10 to 50 km above the sea level. Ozone and some other gaseous substances present in this region are responsible for the pollution.

• Tropospheric Pollution
Pollution in this region is caused by the presence of undesirable gaseous particles like oxides of sulphur, nitrogen and carbon, hydrocarbons along with solid particles like dust, mist, fumes, smoke etc.

• Oxides of Sulphur
These are produced when coal containing sulphur is burnt.

S + O2 → SO2

SO2 + ½ O2 → SO3

SO3 + H2O → H2SO4
It is also produced during volcanic eruptions.

Harmful effects:
(i) It is poisonous to both animals and plants.
(ii) A very high concentration of S02 may cause respiratory diseases e.g., asthma,bronchitis, emphysema in human beings.
(iii) It causes irritation to the eyes, resulting in tears and redness.
(iv) Its high concentration leads to the stiffness of flower buds.
(v) Particulate matter present in the air can catalyse the formation of sulphur trioxide from sulphur dioxide.

2SO2(g) + O2(g) → 2SO3

O3 and H2O2 also promote this reaction.

SO2(g) + O3(g) → SO3(g) + O2(g)

SO2(g) + H2O2(l) → H2SO4(aq)

• Oxides of Nitrogen
Main oxides of nitrogen are nitric oxide (NO) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2).
Major Sources:
(i) Lightning discharge results in the combination of N2 and 02 to form NO.
(ii) Combustion of gasoline in automobilies, burning of hydrocarbons and coal etc.

Harmful effects:
Nitric oxide itself is not harmful to human beings, but it is very unstable and changes to nitrogen dioxide which is toxic in nature. These effects are as follows:
(i) It reacts with Ozone (03) present in the atmosphere and thus decrease the density of Ozone.
(ii) It affects the respiratory system and damages the lungs.
(iii) Higher concentrations of N02 damage the leaves of plants and retard the rate of photosynthesis.
(iv) It causes cracks in rubber.
(v) Nitrogen dioxide is also harmful to various textile fibres and metals.

• Hydrocarbons
Incomplete combustion of fossil fuel in industry and thermal power plants and the exhaust of automobiles release hydrocarbons into the atmosphere constantly causing pollution. Harmful Effects:
(i) They cause cancer.
(ii) Methane is one of the greenhouse gases.
(iii) They harm plants in various ways like breakdown of tissues, shedding of leaves etc.

• Oxides of Carbon
Carbon dioxide:
0.03% C02 is present in air by Volume.

Major Sources:
(i) By burning of fossil fuels.
(ii) By the decomposition of limestone during the manufacture of cement.
(iii) Emitted during volcanic eruptions.
(iv) C02 is released into the atmosphere by respiration.

Harmful effects:
Deforestation and burning of fossil fuel increases the C02 level which is mainly responsible for global warming.

Carbon Monoxide: Carbon Monoxide is a colourless and odourless gas.
Major Sources:
(i) Released by the automobile exhaust.
(ii) Incomplete combustion of coal, fire wood, petrol etc.
(iii) By the dissociation of C02 at high temperature.

Harmful effects:
(i) It binds to haemoglobin to form carboxyhaemoglobin which is more stable than oxygen-haemoglobin complex. Its concentration in blood when reaches to 3-4%, the oxygen carrying capacity of blood is greatly reduced.

The oxygen deficiency, results into headache, weak eyesight, nervousness etc.
(ii) It has harmful effects on plants when its concentration is (100 ppm or more).


• Global Wanning and Greenhouse Effect
Greenhouse Effect:
Some gases like carbondioxide, methane, ozone, water vapours, CFCs have the capacity to trap some of the heat radiations that are released from the earth or from sun. These gases are known as greenhouse gases and the effect is called greenhouse effect. This leads to global warming

Consequences of global warming:
(i) It leads to melting of polar ice caps and flooding of low lying areas all over the earth.
(ii) Global rise in temperature increases the incidence of infectious diseases like dengue, malaria, yellow fever, sleeping sickness etc.

• Acid Rain
When the pH of the rain water drops below 5.6, it is known as acid rain.
Normal rain is slightly acidic due to dissolution of atmospheric carbon dioxide in water.

Oxides of nitrogen and sulphur released as a result of combustion of fossil fuels dissolve in water to form nitric acid and sulphuric acid.

4NO2 + O2 + 2H2O → 4HNO3

SO2 + ½ O2 → H2SO4

Harmful Effects of Acid Rain:
(i) It has harmful effects on trees and plants as it dissolves and washes away nutrients needed for their growth.
(ii) It has very bad effect on aquatic ecosystem.
(iii) Acid rain damages buildings and other structures made of stone or metal. Taj Mahal in India has beenaffected by acid rain.

CaCO3 (marble) + H2SO4 → CaSO3 + H2O + CO2

• Particulate Pollutants
Viable Particulates: They are minute living organisms that are dispersed in the atmosphere. e.g., bacteria, fungi) moulds, algae etc.
Non Viable Particulates:
(i) Smoke: It is the mixture of solid and liquid particles formed during combustion of organic matter,
Example: Cigarette smoke, smoke from burning of fossil fuel.
(ii) Dust: Composed of fine solid particles (over 2gm in diameter).
It is produced during crushing, grinding and attribution of solid particles.
(iii) Mist: These are produced due to the spray of liquids like herbicides and pesticides over the plants. They travel through air and form mist.
(iv) Fumes: They are generally released to the atmosphere by the metallurgical operations and also by several chemical reactions.

Harmful Effects of Particulate Pollutants:
(i) Fine particles less than 5 microns penetrate into the lungs. Inhalation of such particles can lead to serious lung diseases including lung cancer.
(ii) Suspended particles of bigger size can hinder the sun rays from reaching the earth surface. This can lower the temperature of earth and make the weather foggy.

• Smog
This is the common form of air pollution which is combination of smoke and fog.
Smog exists in two types:
(i) Classical Smog: Occurs in cool humid climate. It contains smoke, fog and sulphur dioxide. It is also called as reducing smog.
(ii) Photochemical Smog: This type of smog result from the action of sunlight on unsaturated hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides released by the vehicles and industries. It has high concentration of oxidising agents and is therefore, called as oxidising smog.

Formation of Photochemical Smog

Oxygen atoms combine with air (O2) and form O3 .

O(g) + O2(g) ↔ O3(g)

NO(g) + O3(g) → NO2(g) + O2(g)

Harmful effects of photochemical smog:
(i) It can cause cough, bronchitis, irritation of respiratory system etc.
– To control this type of pollution the engines of the automobiles are fitted with catalytic converters to check the release of both oxides of nitrogen and hydrocarbons in the atmosphere.
– Some plants like Vitis, Pinus, Juniparus, Quercus, Pyrus can metabolise nitrogen
oxide and therefore, their plantation can be done.

• Stratospheric Pollution
Formation of Ozone: Ozone in the stratosphere is produced by UV radiations. When UV – radiations act on dioxygen (02) molecules, Ozone is produced.

Ozone is thermodynamically unstable and decomposes to molecular oxygen. Thus there exists an equilibrium between production and decomposition of Ozone molecules.

Depletion of Ozone layer: 

Ozone blanket in the upper atmosphere prevent the harmful UV radiations from reaching earth.
But in recent years, there have been reports of depletion of this layer due to presence of ,certain chemicals in the stratosphere. Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), nitrogen oxides, chloride, CCl4 etc. are the chemicals responsible for depletion.

Cl2CF2Cl + CClF2

Cl + O3 → ClO + O2

ClO + OCl + O2

Chlorofluorocarbons dissociate in the presence of light gives chlorine free radicals which catalyse the conversion of ozone into oxygen.

Effects of the depletion of Ozone layer:
(i) This leads to many diseases like skin cancer, sunburn, ageing of skin, cataract etc.
(ii) UV radiations can kill many phytoplanktons, damage the fish productivity.
(iii) It can decrease moisture content of the soil by increasing the evaporation of surface water.
(iv) UV radiations can damage paints and fibres, causing them to fade faster.

3. Water pollution


Presence of undesirable materials in water which is harmful for the human beings and plants is known as water pollution. Normal properties of the water can be changed by the presence of these foreign materials.

Maximum prescribed concentration of some metals in drinking water

Major water pollutants

Causes of Water Pollution:
(i) Pathogens: Pathogens are the bacteria and the other organisms that enter water from domestic sewage and animal excreta.
Human excreta contain bacteria such as Escherichia coli and Streptococcus faecalis. It causes gastrointestinal diseases.

(ii) Organic Wastes: Organic matter such as leaves, grass, trash etc. can pollute water.
– Excessive growth of phytoplankton within water also pollute water.
– Large numbers of bacteria in water can consume oxygen dissolved in water by decomposing organic matter present in water.
– If the concentration of dissolved oxygen in water is below 6 ppm, the growth of fish gets inhibited.
– If too much of organic matter is added to water, all the available oxygen is used up. This can cause the death of the aquatic life.

• BOD (Biochemical Oxygen Demand)
It is defined as the amount of oxygen required by bacteria for the breakdown of the organic matter present in a certain volume of a sample of water.
The amount of BOD in water is a measure of the amount of organic material in the water. Clean water has BOD value of less than 5 ppm.
Highly polluted water could have a BOD value of 17 ppm or more.

• Chemical Pollutants
(i) Industrial Wastes: Chemical reactions carried in the industrial units also pollute water to a great extent. For example, lead, mercury, nickel, cobalt etc. These chemicals give very bad effect to the groundwater and waterbodies are polluted due’ to the chemical reactions known as leaching.
Organic chemicals like petroleum products also pollute many sources of water e.g., major oil spills in oceans.
(ii) Pesticides: These are mostly chlorinated hydrocarbons, organophosphates and metallic salts etc. They dissolve in water to small extent and pollute it. Since all the pesticides are toxic in nature, they are injurious to both plants and animals.
(iii) Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBS): These are the chemical compounds used as fluids in transformers and capacitors. These are released in atmosphere as vapours. They mix with rain water and thus contaminate the water.
(iv) Eutrophication: The process in which algae like organisms reduce dissolved oxygen in water is called as eutrophication. It is harmful for aquatic life.

• International Standards for Drinking Water
Fluoride: Concentration of fluoride up to 1 ppm or 1 mg dm-3, is not harmful for human
beings if it is used as drinking water. The F~ ions make the enamel on teeth much harder by converting hydroxyapatite [3Ca3(P04)2- Ca(OH)2] the enamel on the surface of the teeth, into much harder fluorapatite, [3Ca3(P04)2- CaF2]. Concentration of F~ above 2 ppm causes brown mottling of teeth. Excess of fluoride is harmful to bones also.
Lead: Upper limit concentration of lead in drinking water is about 50 ppm. Lead can damage kidney, lever, reproductive system etc.
Sulphate: At moderate level it is harmless but excess is harmful.
Nitrate: The maximum limit of nitrate should be 50 ppm. Excess nitrate in drinking water can cause diseases such as methemoglobinemia (blue baby syndrome).
Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD): Water is treated with K2Cr207 in acidic medium to oxidise polluting substance which cannot be oxidised by microbial oxidation. The remaining  is determined by back titration with suitable reducing agent.

From the concentration of K2Cr207 consumed, the amount of O2 used in the oxidation is calculated.

K2Cr2O7(aq) + 4H2SO4(aq) → K2SO4(aq) + Cr2(SO4)3(aq) + 3H2O + 3O

4. Soil pollution


Pesticides: It can be classified as:
(i) Insecticide: The most common insecticides are chlorinated hydrocarbons like DDT, BHC etc.
As they are not much soluble in water, they stay in the soil for long time. They are ‘ absorbed by the soil and contaminate root crops like radish, carrot etc.
(ii) Herbicides: These are the compounds used to control weeds, namely, sodium chlorate (NaCl03) and sodium arsenite (Na3As03) are commonly used herbicides but arsenic compounds, being toxic are no longer preferred.

Fungicides: Organo-mercury compounds are the most common fungicides. Its dissociation in soil produces mercury which is highly toxic and harmful for the crops. i Industrial Waste: It has seen that most of the industrial wastes are thrown into water or dumped into the soil. These industrial wastes contain huge amounts of toxic chemicals which are mostly non-bidegradable. For example, metal processing industries, mining cement, glass industries, petroleum industry etc., fertilizer industry produce gypsum.
The disposal of non-biodegradable industrial solid waste is not done by suitable methods i and cause many serious problems.


The waste materials generated by industries or industrial processes, is called industrial waste. It includes chemicals, trash, oils, solvents, dirt and gravel, many harmful gases etc. These are dumped in seas, rivers or land without adequate treatment. Thus, become a large source of environmental pollution. 

Types of industrial wastes 

Industrial waste can be divided into following two types

  • Biodegradable industrial waste
  • Non – biodegradable industrial waste 

Biodegradable wastes – Those waste materials which can be decomposed into simpler unharmful substances by the action of microorganisms are called biodegradable wastes. Some industries such as the paper industry, food industry, sugar industry, wool industry etc. mostly produce biodegradable industrial wastes. Management of these wastes can be done at low cost and easily. 

Non-biodegradable wastes – Non-biodegradable waste cannot be further decomposed via the action of the microorganisms. Such waste is the major source of toxins in the landfills. Chemicals, metals, plastics, paints, rubber etc. are examples of non-biodegradable wastes. These materials can remain as landfills for thousands of years without any damage. Toxins from metals and plastics get soaked into the earth and pollute the soil and water sources. Cleaning materials such detergent, phenols etc. producing industries, coal industries, dying industries etc. produce a large amount of non-biodegradable industrial waste. These types of wastes are difficult to manage and very toxic in nature. 

Effects of Industrial Waste 

Industrial waste is very harmful for us and our environment. Few impacts are stated below –

  • Liquid industrial waste which is thrown into the sea is at an alarmingly dangerous level for marine ecosystems. 
  • Industries release many harmful gases such as carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides etc. which cause air pollution. 
  • In industrial wastewater nitrates and phosphates are there which often cause eutrophication. 
  • Generally, air around industries is highly polluted and causes skin, eyes, throat, nose and lungs diseases.
  • Industries use large quantities of water and also release a huge quantity of wastewater which contain many harmful chemicals and heavy metals. This wastewater pollutes natural sources of water and ultimately our health and environment. 
  • It is one of the main causes of global warming. 
  • Industrial wastewater destroys useful bacteria and other microorganisms present in soil. 
  • Some industries cause sound pollution as well. 
  • Industrial wastes and industries are destroying natural habitat of many species and responsible for wildlife extinction. 

Proper disposal and treatment is the only solution of prevention from effects of industrial wastes. 

Management of Industrial Waste  

Management of industrial solid waste is not the responsibility of local bodies or governments. Industries which are generating these solid wastes should manage such wastes by themselves. They need to take authorization from the pollution control board as well. Different procedures and methods are used to manage industrial waste. Although some basic steps involved in all processes are the same. Those basic steps are as follows –

  • Analysis or Segregation 
  • Collection 
  • Transportation 
  • Recovery 
  • Recycling 
  • Disposal 

Analysis or Segregation – Industrial waste is segregated or analyzed, and some biodegradable wastes or recyclable material are kept separately. Industries should segregate waste materials in different categories such as biodegradable, non-biodegradable, hazardous waste etc. 

Collection and Transportation – Industrial waste must be collected and transported to waste management plants. 

Recovery – In waste management plants recovery should be done. It means useful materials should be recovered from industrial wastes during treatment in waste management plants. 

Recycling and Disposal – If during recovery we get any useful materials then recycling should be done and disposal should be done of waste and harmful materials. 


Environmental pollution is also a major global concern due to the harmful effects of pollution on a person’s health and on the environment as well. Some of the strategies that are to be followed to lessen environmental pollution include the following:

  • Stop smoking or at least follow “No Smoking” regulations at public places.
  • Do not use open fires for waste disposal.
  • Instead of plastic, use eco-friendly or biodegradable products, because plastic-like products are highly toxic in nature.
  • Maintain proper waste disposal, especially for toxic wastes, and plan some strategies to reduce waste.
  • Do not litter in public places, and some anti-litter campaigns should be run to educate the public.


Green Chemistry is a way of thinking and is about utilising the knowledge and principles of
chemistry that would control the increasing environmental pollution.

Green chemistry in day-to-day life:
(i) Dry-Cleaning of clothes and laundary: Replacement of halogenated solvent like (CCl4) by liquid C02 which is less harmful to groundwater.  
Hydrogen peroxide (H202) is used for the purpose      of bleaching clothes.
(ii) Bleaching of Paper: In place of chlorine H202 is used for the bleaching of paper,
(iii) Synthesis of Chemicals: Ethahal (CH3CHO) is prepared by step oxidation of ethene. Such as,

Definition of green chemistry

Green chemistry is the design of chemical products and processes that reduce or eliminate the use or generation of hazardous substances. Green chemistry applies across the life cycle of a chemical product, including its design, manufacture, use, and ultimate disposal.

Green chemistry:

  • Prevents pollution at the molecular level
  • Is a philosophy that applies to all areas of chemistry, not a single discipline of chemistry
  • Applies innovative scientific solutions to real-world environmental problems
  • Results in source reduction because it prevents the generation of pollution
  • Reduces the negative impacts of chemical products and processes on human health and the environment
  • Lessens and sometimes eliminates hazard from existing products and processes
  • Designs chemical products and processes to reduce their intrinsic hazards

How green chemistry differs from cleaning up pollution

Green chemistry reduces pollution at its source by minimizing or eliminating the hazards of chemical feedstocks, reagents, solvents, and products.

This is unlike cleaning up pollution (also called remediation), which involves treating waste streams (end-of-the-pipe treatment) or cleanup of environmental spills and other releases. Remediation may include separating hazardous chemicals from other materials, then treating them so they are no longer hazardous or concentrating them for safe disposal. Most remediation activities do not involve green chemistry. Remediation removes hazardous materials from the environment; on the other hand, green chemistry keeps the hazardous materials out of the environment in the first place.

If a technology reduces or eliminates the hazardous chemicals used to clean up environmental contaminants, this technology would qualify as a green chemistry technology. One example is replacing a hazardous sorbent [chemical] used to capture mercury from the air for safe disposal with an effective, but non-hazardous sorbent. Using the non-hazardous sorbent means that the hazardous sorbent is never manufactured and so the remediation technology meets the definition of green chemistry.

Green chemistry's 12 principles

These principles demonstrate the breadth of the concept of green chemistry:

1. Prevent waste: Design chemical syntheses to prevent waste. Leave no waste to treat or clean up.

2. Maximize atom economy: Design syntheses so that the final product contains the maximum proportion of the starting materials. Waste few or no atoms.

3. Design less hazardous chemical syntheses: Design syntheses to use and generate substances with little or no toxicity to either humans or the environment.

4. Design safer chemicals and products: Design chemical products that are fully effective yet have little or no toxicity.

5. Use safer solvents and reaction conditions: Avoid using solvents, separation agents, or other auxiliary chemicals. If you must use these chemicals, use safer ones.

6. Increase energy efficiency: Run chemical reactions at room temperature and pressure whenever possible.

7. Use renewable feedstocks: Use starting materials (also known as feedstocks) that are renewable rather than depletable. The source of renewable feedstocks is often agricultural products or the wastes of other processes; the source of depletable feedstocks is often fossil fuels (petroleum, natural gas, or coal) or mining operations.

8. Avoid chemical derivatives: Avoid using blocking or protecting groups or any temporary modifications if possible. Derivatives use additional reagents and generate waste.

9. Use catalysts, not stoichiometric reagents: Minimize waste by using catalytic reactions. Catalysts are effective in small amounts and can carry out a single reaction many times. They are preferable to stoichiometric reagents, which are used in excess and carry out a reaction only once.

10. Design chemicals and products to degrade after use: Design chemical products to break down to innocuous substances after use so that they do not accumulate in the environment.

11. Analyse in real time to prevent pollution: Include in-process, real-time monitoring and control during syntheses to minimize or eliminate the formation of byproducts.

12. Minimize the potential for accidents: Design chemicals and their physical forms (solid, liquid, or gas) to minimize the potential for chemical accidents including explosions, fires, and releases to the environment.

Green chemistry's roots in the Pollution Prevention Act of 1990

To stop creating pollution in the first place became America's official policy in 1990 with the Federal Pollution Prevention Act .

The law defines source reduction as any practice that:

  • Reduces the amount of any hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant entering any waste stream or otherwise released into the environment (including fugitive emissions) prior to recycling, treatment, or disposal.
  • Reduces the hazards to public health and the environment associated with the release of such substances, pollutants, or contaminants.

The term "source reduction" includes:

  • Modifications to equipment or technology
  • Modifications to process or procedures
  • Modifications, reformulation or redesign of products
  • Substitution of raw materials
  • Improvements in housekeeping, maintenance, training, or inventory control

Section 2 of the Pollution Prevention Act establishes a pollution prevention hierarchy, saying:

  • The Congress hereby declares it to be the national policy of the United States that pollution should be prevented or reduced at the source whenever feasible;
  • Pollution that cannot be prevented should be recycled in an environmentally safe manner, whenever feasible;
  • Pollution that cannot be prevented or recycled should be treated in an environmentally safe manner whenever feasible; an
  • Disposal or other release into the environment should be employed only as a last resort and should be conducted in an environmentally safe manner.

Green chemistry aims to design and produce cost-competitive chemical products and processes that attain the highest level of the pollution-prevention hierarchy by reducing pollution at its source.

For those who are creating and using green chemistry, the hierarchy looks like this:

  1. Source Reduction and Prevention of Chemical Hazards
    • Designing chemical products to be less hazardous to human health and the environment*
    • Making chemical products from feedstocks, reagents, and solvents that are less hazardous to human health and the environment*
    • Designing syntheses and other processes with reduced or even no chemical waste
    • Designing syntheses and other processes that use less energy or less water
    • Using feedstocks derived from annually renewable resources or from abundant waste
    • Designing chemical products for reuse or recycling
    • Reusing or recycling chemicals
  2. Treating chemicals to render them less hazardous before disposal
  3. Disposing of untreated chemicals safely and only if other options are not feasible

*Chemicals that are less hazardous to human health and the environment are:

  • Less toxic to organisms
  • Less damaging to ecosystems
  • Not persistent or bio accumulative in organisms or the environment
  • Inherently safer to handle and use because they are not flammable or explosive

• Environmental pollution: It is the effect of undesirable changes in the surroundings that have harmful effects on plants, animals, and human beings.
• Troposphere: The lowest region of atmosphere which extends up to the height of 10 km from sea level in which man and other living organism exists.
• Stratosphere: It is above troposhere between 10 to 50 km above the sea level.
• Acid rain: It is caused by the presence of oxides of sulphur and nitrogen and C02 in the atmosphere. The pH of the rain drops below 5.6, and it becomes acidic.
• Greenhouse gases: Some gases like carbon dioxide, methane, ozone, water vapours, CFCs have the capacity to trap some of the heat radiations from the earth or from the sun. This leads to global warming.
• Eutrophication: When phosphate ion increases in water it increases the growth of algae which consume the dissolved oxygen in water consequently aquatic life is adversely affected. This results in loss of biodiversity and the phenomenon is known as Eutrophication.
• COD (Chemical Oxygen Demand): It is calculated as the amount of oxygen required to oxidise the polluting substances. It is measured by treating the given sample of water with an oxidising agent, generally K2Cr207in the presence of dil. H2S04.

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