Gary W. vanLoon and Stephen J. Duffy

Oxford: OUP 2005 | Pp532 | £17.00 | ISBN 0 199 27499 1

Reviewed by Mathew Heal

Cover of Environmental chemistry: a global perspective (2nd edn)

Environmental chemistry is arguably the ultimate in applied chemistry, being the study of the chemicals and chemical processes that shape the natural world in which we live. It is about understanding how the uncontaminated environment works - the sources, reactions, transport and fate of chemical species in air, water and soil - and, increasingly, about understanding, and predicting, the myriad effects of human activity on all these. The potential scope of environmental chemistry is vast, so the authors of this undergraduate textbook (a second edition) sensibly make clear the boundaries of their material at the outset.  

The content is core environmental chemistry, with description divided along the traditional lines of atmospheric, hydrospheric and terrestrial environments. There is little discussion of environmental control processes or green chemistry that help reduce pollution in the first place, and only basic concepts of environmental toxicology are introduced. Neither does the book cover environmental analysis, though the authors explicitly acknowledge the essential role of this subject in environmental chemistry.  

What is covered, is done comprehensively. There are diverse and informative examples of environmental chemistry in action from across the range of urban and rural, industrial and agricultural, developed world and developing world contexts.  

It is also refreshing to see that the authors do not shirk from a quantitative treatment of the subject, which is often lacking in other comparable textbooks. Inevitably this means that chemical principles are often applied with little preamble so consequently the most appreciative audience are likely to be those who have completed the first-year of a university chemistry course.  

To help student learning, the text is liberally sprinkled with worked examples and summaries of the 'main points', and each chapter concludes with a further set of problems. A welcome feature to this second edition is the introduction of what are termed 'Fermi questions' - open-ended questions that illustrate just the sort of ballpark guesstimates that professional practitioners all too frequently have to make.  

An online resource centre, featuring illustrations available for download and a solutions manual for all the problems, is available to lecturers who choose to use the book. Overall, this new edition improves on what was already an excellent textbook for its market.