Chemistry in the Marketplace

Chemistry in the Marketplace

Chemicals are everywhere. Many are natural and safe, others synthetic and dangerous. Or is it the other way around? Walking through the supermarket, you might ask yourself: Should I be eating organic food? Is that anti-wrinkle cream a gimmick? Is it worth buying BPA-free plastics?

This new edition of Chemistry in the Marketplace provides fresh explanations, fascinating facts and funny anecdotes about the serious science in the products we buy and the resources we use. It might even save you some money.

With chapters on the chemistry found in different parts of our home, in the backyard and in the world around us, Ben Selinger and Russell Barrow explain how things work, where marketing can be deceptive and what risks you should really be concerned about.

Chemistry in the Marketplace is a valuable resource for university lecturers, high school teachers and students of chemistry and chemistry related subjects and disciplines, such as biochemistry, microbiology and science in society.

  1. Page vii
  2. Page 1

    In cross-referencing the chapters that follow, it became clear that a number of chemical concepts kept re-occurring. So for the consumer tourist, we believe that coming to grips with some of these is well worthwhile. We start by introducing the language of chemicals and their social life. Topics follow fast and furious: nomenclature, phases, solubility, hard and soft acids and bases, chemical speciation, chemical accountancy, chemical activity and free radicals.

  3. Page 27

    The focus of this chapter is on some aspects of the health and safety of chemicals. The devil is in the detail, and so there is considerable discussion on the nature of measurement and its interpretation. Because chemists scratch their collective heads over public ‘misconceptions’ of chemicals, we also contrast hazard (science) and outrage (public reaction).

  4. Page 43

    Surface chemistry impinges on many aspects of consumer science, so it has links to many other chapters in this book. For example, surface chemistry is in action when washing dirt out of clothes with water and surfactants (Chapter 4), it determines the composition of ice cream and other foods (Chapters 5 and 6), we use it for skin and haircare (Chapter 8), it describes the behaviour of microfibres, Gore-Tex™, adhesives and paint (Chapters 11 and 13), and of particles in the soil, in swimming pool treatments and at the beach (Chapters 12, 14 and 15).

    Breaking large pieces into smaller ones increases the surface area and eventually the properties of the surface dominate those of the bulk material. Both liquids and solids have a surface tension, better called a surface energy. As well as this surface energy, surfaces develop charges. This provides the stability of some suspensions. The balance between the water-loving (hydrophilic) and oil-loving (lipophilic) parts of a molecule is called the hydrophilic–lipophilic balance (HLB). The HLB is crucial for the stability of emulsions found in a range of consumer products. We follow this with air-containing emulsions called foams.

    There is an important place for Monsieur Laplace and his famous equation that explains the behaviour of bubbles. Finally, we realise that solids also have a surface energy, which leads to other chapters dealing with the behaviour and deterioration of consumer products.

  5. Page 61

    We start our journey of studying chemistry in the marketplace in the laundry looking at soap. Then we move to their replacement modern detergents, which are surfactants.

    Other cleaning agents around the house are based on these, with additions to meet specific requirements. We do get some natural help from a big bright slug! Microfibres rely for their activity on van der Waal forces. Finally, we are taken to the (dry) cleaners.

  6. Page 81

    For this chapter, we drop into the kitchen. First, we look at the kitchen benchtop: a most expensive item. We discuss the merits and disadvantages of the different types. Some traditional pots and pans are still found on the stove but there many other materials in use. Rusty stains on stainless steel utensils open up a general question about corrosion – a process that costs us many millions annually to repair. The rust pattern hidden under a long forgotten paper clip provides the answer.

    Our supermarket trolley has lots of fresh fruit and vegetables but also a can of tomatoes, some frozen chips to fry in oil, a tub of margarine and butter. Yes, the Tim Tams were on special, but what was all that media on trans fats and now it’s the terrifying interesterified ones?

    How reliable is the coffee chatter on antioxidants and cholesterol? After a breakfast of quick oats, we Q&A the microwave, worry whether it is talking to aliens and, finally, take a cold hard look at refrigerators.

  7. Page 109

    Our dining companions are terribly erudite and scientifically curious. After talking about the chemistry of each course, we discuss food additives, antioxidants, intolerances and allergies and diets – among other things. We hope you enjoy eavesdropping on the conversations during this deconstruction of a degustation.

  8. Page 137

    We start the chemistry of food utilisation with a quick resume of the main players in the energy world, carbohydrates and fat, and explore where fat goes when we lose weight. We contrast the views of the diabetic and athlete regarding the GI factor. Then we enter the sports field where the study becomes serious and detailed, examining our fuel sources and how they work. By then, we’ve worked up a sweat!

  9. Page 149

    We start with discussing the skin followed by an overview of the chemicals involved in cosmetics. We distinguish cosmetics from cosmeceuticals: the latter requiring drug-equivalent regulation. Then we start stripping the top layer off. Further in, we wonder what goes through the skin into our bodies. Next, we work on our hair. Then down to teeth. Followed by lipsticks. We then reach the armpits! Now we definitely need perfumes.

  10. Page 177

    Take a look in your medicine cabinet. Whether it be a drawer in the bathroom or a box in the pantry, most homes have one. You’ll probably find it contains aspirin, paracetamol and ibuprofen along with a variety of prescription medications, which, depending on your age and lifestyle will treat such conditions as high blood pressure, high cholesterol or depression. This chapter describes the types of drugs used in the past and today, along with how they are developed and controlled.

  11. Page 209

    Look around you! I’ll be surprised if there are not several different types of plastics and glass within reach of you. Perhaps even on you. Over the last 100 years, plastics in particular have changed the way we live. In this chapter we look at what they are and some of the many places we use them.

  12. Page 241

    This chapter deals with many of the same materials that were covered in the previous chapter on plastics. However, the processing of materials and their final physical form differ. The classification used here also differs and we focus less on the chemistry. With the advent of plastics, the natural-based fibres had almost disappeared until concerns arose about sustainability. Of the fibres discussed here, mixtures have ensured that a rough balance between natural and synthetic has remained over time.

  13. Page 261

    Step into the garden and examine the soils, fertilisers and pesticides. We also look for sex attractants (for pests) and sexy murder.

    If you stick your hand in a bit of dirt in the backyard, you will come up with a handful of something that will differ widely in physical and chemical composition depending on where you live and how keen a gardener you are. We can describe soil by colour and texture (Fig. 12.1) and also by its chemical, physical and biological properties.

  14. Page 291

    In this chapter we look at a small selection of the multitude of offerings in the hardware and stationery stores. We explore the development of paints, inks, adhesives, plasters and concrete.

  15. Page 311

    Australian suburbs, seen from above, present a myriad of blue polka dotted backyards. The blue dots are swimming pools. However, some are green! These haven’t been treated properly with the appropriate chemical regime. In this chapter, we won’t actually tell you what to do, but the chemistry behind why you do what you should be doing.

  16. Page 327

    This chapter starts with sunscreens. These are not legally cosmetics because sunscreens must meet mandatory standards for their therapeutic claims. Similarly, sunglasses must perform as per law. We then lighten up with a tale about wet suits, and then discuss things hiding in the sand. Dark beach sands provide the rare earth minerals that provide many components for electronic consumer items. There is a link from the behaviour of sand to viscosity, and thus we revisit this area of chemistry.

  17. Page 347

    We live in an environment rich in metal compounds. Our bodies use some and protect themselves against others. This chapter links strongly with the concept of speciation that we explored in Chapter 1 – the form of the metal decides our body’s response to it. We deal with only a limited selection of metals and metalloids here, and you should explore the rest of the fascinating list.

    Heavy metals are widely used in industry. When released into the air or into rivers, they distort the naturally occurring distribution of elements and also how available the metals are biologically. For example, acid rain decreases the pH of waters, releasing metals such as aluminium from previously insoluble and unavailable forms.

  18. Page 365

    In this chapter we take a look at energy. We consider what it is, how we create it and how we harness it. We spend a lot of time on batteries, because these are the key to the sustainable energy future. And of course, nuclear energy is always a ‘hot’ topic.

    Many consumers are concerned about energy, pondering how to conserve it and the alternative ways to produce it. Our groceries come in wasteful energy-intensive packaging that needs to be disposed of. Our cars are powered by large quantities of irreplaceable fossil fuels and our power plants provide energy to artificially condition our homes or hit a switch and have light. It seems pretty wasteful to produce an aluminium can, fill it with an energy drink, empty it and throw it away. But is it just as wasteful to eat a breakfast cereal largely provided by fossil fuel (with a small solar contribution) and then proceed to turn it all into waste heat by jogging mindlessly on a treadmill? We exist as highly complex organisms by wasting energy continuously. What we need to understand is the manner in which energy can be wasted most sensibly.

  19. Page 395

    This chapter starts with radiation basics, followed by the biological effects of radiation. External sources include NORM (naturally occurring radioactive materials) such as minerals in the garden, limestone caves, mineral beach sands and coal. Radioactivity in food and medical exposure are discussed. We toss in the dramatic story of a hyperactive, radioactive boy scout. The theory that low-level exposure might even have positive effects is not as outrageous as one might at first believe. Of the many applications of radioactive materials, a final example comes from the forensic investigation of art forgery.

  20. Page 469
  21. Page 473
  22. Page 499
  23. Page 509