Authors

Pod(s)

Home Life, Pollution

Module(s)

Resources and Waste

Abstract

Humans have used chemicals for a long time. The ancient Egyptians used chemicals for dyeing, soldering and coloring metal, and making jewelry. The Industrial Revolution, which began in the middle of the 18th century, spawned the development of many new chemicals and chemical processes. Since World War II, the global chemical industry has boomed. Global production of chemicals was 1 million tons in 1930 and is now over 400 million tons. Environmental scientists study chemicals to determine if they are harmful to human health and the environment. Pretty much every chemical can harm you if you ingest too much of it. Take in too much water, for example, and you’ll drown. Inhaling too much oxygen can lead to oxygen toxicity, a condition that can damage lung tissue as well as death. At the other end of the harmful spectrum is botulinum toxin, a single gram of which could kill upwards of a million people. Needless to say, it’s classified as a bioweapon. In between oxygen and botulinum toxin are thousands of chemicals used every day to wash your hair, keep insects off your vegetables, and make you smell good.