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Elements of Environmental Chemistry

Ronald A. Hites ISBN: 978-0-471-99815-0 Paperback 224 pages May 2007 22.50 / €28.40

There’s hardly a thing wrong with this book as far as I can see. Whilst this is great from the author’s point of view, it is going to make for a pretty dull review.

The book does however seem to do exactly what it sets out to do. “”Elements of Environmental Chemistry” uses real-world examples to help readers master the quantitative aspects of environmental chemistry. Complex environmental issues are presented in simple terms to help readers grasp the basics and solve relevant problems. Topics covered include: steady- and non-steady-state modelling, chemical kinetics, stratospheric ozone, photochemical smog, the greenhouse effect, carbonate equilibria, the application of partition coefficients, pesticides, and toxic metals. Numerous sample problems help readers apply their skills. An interactive textbook for students, this is also a great refresher course for practitioners. “

Whilst not intended to be read novel-style (there are exercises), it is very readable. This is facilitated by it being in a recognisable version of English, by virtue of good writing and proof-reading. Unusually for an American author, it uses SI units. Some of the jokes are even funny. (OK, not really, this IS a science text book: “A refrigerator is a device to frigerate again”)

The book was developed from materials used in a course taught for over 25 years to first year (mostly Biological Sciences) graduate students by the author. It is however in my opinion highly suitable for a Chemical Engineer wishing to gain an outline understanding of the most important topics in environmental chemistry, and of many of the quantitative methods employed in the environmental arena.

Many of the quantitative methods employed will be familiar in outline to all Chemical Engineers, but some will not. Whilst developed from taught-course materials, and therefore highly suitable as the basis of a one-semester course (an answers booklet and an on-line resource is available to facilitate this), its tutorial nature makes it also very suited to self-study.

The only caveat I would add is that whilst the book uses real world examples to teach its methods, the techniques used are not necessarily those than an expert would use to solve the problem given. They are simplified examples, well suited to use by students for learning general principles, but often not to be taken as suggested ways of solving problems for a practitioner.

In summary, it’s a great little text-book for teaching or learning the basic principles of quantitative environmental chemistry. The jokes could be funnier though.  .