Current Topics in Chemistry - Wade - Chapter 6
This news item was created by students Leon Legleiter, Kyle Younger, Kris McClusky, Lukas Lamb and Matt Heebner as part of their Chemistry 210 Semester Project in the WS99 under the guidance of Prof. Rainer Glaser.

Glaser's "Chemistry is in the News"
To Accompany Wade Organic Chemistry 4/e.
Chapter 6. Alkyl Halides: Nucleophilic Substitution and Elimination.

For each of the following questions, please refer to the following article:

by Wayne R. Ott and John W. Roberts, Scientific American, February 1998.

Editorial Comments

In our society we are mainly concerned about the health risks that "outdoor" pollutants have upon us. The government has made many regulations and restrictions on the production of these harmful pollutants. However, many people have little idea that they have a greater exposure to toxic pollutants within their own homes, automobiles, and offices than they do outside! For example, 95% of the chemicals that are used in perfumes are capable of causing cancer, central nervous system disorders, birth defects and allergic reactions!

A few of the everyday indoor toxins are benzene, chloroform, chlordane, and benzo(a)pyrene (the most toxic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon. Benzene can be found in gasoline, tobacco smoke and even in some household products. One can easily be exposed to chloroform when showering, boiling water, and using a washing machine. An enhanced threat of the chemical chlordane is that any treatments using this chemical may remain in the houses or fields treated for many years. Exposure of chlordane can occur from termite treated houses, produce harvested from chlordane-fertilized fields, and even the meat and milk from animals that fed off of chlordane-treated fields. We all are exposed to the toxin benzo(a)pyrene when we breath, eat, drink or are in contact with cigarette smoke.

Another alarming thought is that small children are especially vulnerable to many indoor toxicants. Research shows that infants consume 5 times more dust than adults because they play on floors and put their hands in their mouth. The amount of toxic dust a child consumes a day within the house is equal to what the child would get from smoking 3 cigarettes!

What is the government doing and what can we do about these alarming indoor pollutants?

The EPA is actively trying to better understand indoor pollution and reduce people’s exposure to it. The Washington Toxics Coalition is currently setting up regulations for labeling of products that contain toxic chemicals. Also the American Lung Association is putting forth a concerted effort to educate people on air pollution. An interesting solution to reduce the amount of toxic pollutants within your own home is to use a special vacuum equipped to sense when no more particles can be extracted. It is also helpful to remove shoes when entering a house to prevent tracking in pollutants.

Pertinent Text References
Chapter 6: Alkyl Halides: Nucleophilic substitution and elimination.


Question 1: What are some settings where chloroform can be found?

A: Chloroform manufacturing plants, internal combustion engine industries, paint stores, showering, boiling water.

Question 2: A common toxicant found in our everyday lives is benzopyrene. Benzo(a)pyrene is the most toxic polycylcic aromatic hydrocarbons! What is a Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon (PAH)? What are the health risks of PAH’s?

A: A PAH is a group of chemicals that are formed during incomplete combustion of organic substances. PAHs can be man made or occur naturally. There are more than 100 different PAHs.

Question 3: What can you as an individual do to decrease the exposure of everyday pollutants?

A: Quit smoking, look for gas stations with vapor reducing nozzles, compost yard waste, avoid using household products in aerosol cans.

Question 4: What could be a concern with the way the government has handled the regulation of environmental toxins?

A: Benzene is an aromatic hydrocarbon. It is composed of a six member ring with three double bonds. It has been know to cause leukemia.

Exposure: 45% - smoking or second hand smoke

36% - gasoline fumes

16% - home sources such as paint and stored gasoline

3% - industrial pollution

Question 5: Do you think the government should be responsible for regulating pollution within your own homes and businesses? Is this a big concern in your life or is this just another media hype?