Environmental Chemistry

Develop your understanding of chemistry, the impact chemicals have on ecosystems, and how this relates to the environment as a whole.

Course Code: BSC306
Fee Code: S2
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment
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Learn about Environmental Chemistry

    Chemicals are an essential part of our environment -- everything on the earth interacts with them. In this course, you'll study types of chemicals used in the environment as part of agriculture, horticulture, land management, and more. You'll learn about toxicity, necessary changes in use, and why eco-friendly products and sustainable production is increasingly important.

    Better management of our environment must begin with understanding of the changes caused by humans in our quest for industrialisation and higher production. In this course you will:

    • learn how chemicals contaminate the environment
    • study chemicals used, and the ways in which they can change the environment
    • discuss the impact chemicals can have upon changing the ecosystem and how all living things can be affected.

    This is a course not only for scientists, but also managers and users of the environment, including:

    • Environmental Managers and Assessors
    • Resource Managers
    • Manufacturers and suppliers of chemical products, such as paints and fuels
    • Factory managers, automotive managers, mechanics or anyone else working with machinery.
    • Town planners, architects, engineers, builders, landscapers

    Lesson Structure

    There are 8 lessons in this course:

    1. Introduction to Environmental Chemistry and Chemistry Concepts
      • Chemistry
      • Environmental chemistry through time
      • Global warming, greenhouse gases and carbon sequestering
      • Basic chemistry concepts
      • Charges on Atoms and Bonds
      • Compounds
      • Organic and Inorganic Compounds and Biochemistry
      • Used in Environmental Chemistry
      • Organic, inorganic and biological contaminants in the environment
    2. Ecological Concepts in the Environment
      • Pollutants in the environment
      • Degradation of pollutants
      • Pricing measures implemented by government policy makers
      • Types of pollutants
      • Contaminants in the world's natural environments (biomes)
      • Water pollution and treatment
    3. Air and Environmental Chemistry
      • Composition of the Atmosphere
      • Vertical structure of the atmosphere
      • Purpose of the atmosphere
      • Air pollution and its source
      • Effects of air pollution
      • Climate change
      • Reducing carbon and greenhouse gas emissions
    4. Water and Environmental Chemistry
      • Hydrological Cycles
      • Marine (Ocean) Environments
      • Coastal Environments
      • Continental and Inland Water Environments
      • Water chemistry – important reactions
      • Water categories and classifications
      • Water and impurities and pollutants
      • Water quality standards
      • Water pollution management
      • Methods of water treatment
    5. Soil and Environmental Chemistry
      • The nature of soil
      • Soil properties
      • Important soil chemical reactions
      • Soil chemistry and its importance in management
      • Soil pollution
      • Methods of soil remediation
      • Bioremediation
    6. Environmental Chemistry and Health
      • Health as policy
      • Specific health risks
      • Environmental health levels
      • Indoor and Outdoor air pollution
      • Water pollutants and health
      • Chemicals in households
      • Biological controls, pitfalls and positives
      • Creating green areas and raising public awareness
    7. Testing for Environmental Chemistry
      • Introduction to sampling and testing
      • Sampling design
      • Sampling equipment
      • Gas/air, soil and water sampling
      • Agricultural produce/plant tissue sampling
      • Using the correct sample container
      • Chain of custody
      • Chemical analysis in the field
      • Simple colorimetric tests and simple meters
      • Chemical analysis in the laboratory
    8. Applications for Environmental Chemistry
      • Environmental assessment and management
      • Principles of sustainable environmental management
      • Green chemistry in environmental management
      • Green chemistry is the future of environmental protection
      • Environmental building practices
      • Treating contamination or pollution sustain-ably
      • Urban planning concerns and considerations
      • Sustainable transport
      • Barriers to sustainability and green design

    Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.


    • Describe the nature, importance and scope of environmental chemistry and advance an understanding of basic chemistry including atoms and their components, elements, compounds and chemical reactions.
    • Outline different types of air pollutants and their causes and describe appropriate responses to contain, reduce. eliminate or otherwise deal with such problems.
    • Distinguish between various water pollutants and discuss appropriate alternative responses to contain, reduce. eliminate or otherwise respond to such problems.
    • Describe soil pollutants and compare appropriate alternative responses to contain, reduce. eliminate or otherwise respond to such problems.
    • Explain a range of ways that better management of environmental chemicals can contribute toward improved human health.
    • Explain different techniques that can be utilised for sampling and testing chemicals in the environment.
    • Explain the two broad goals of green chemistry and describe examples of green chemistry used in homes, vehicles; industry and the environment.

    This course explores this important and rapidly expanding field of Environmental Chemistry. 

    Environmental chemistry affects the world in diverse ways (both beneficial and detrimental) at scales ranging from global to microscopic.  Global examples include climate change and global warming occurring mostly due to changes in the chemical composition of atmospheric gases (greenhouse gases) largely caused by humans. Global warming is the long-term trend of a rising average global  temperatures, whereas climate change is a broader term referring to changes mostly brought about by global warming such as extreme rainfall events, increased prevalence of drought, heat waves and so on.

    At a microscopic scale, chemicals are used to control or prevent outbreaks of diseases caused by microorganisms in crops. This includes fungal diseases such as mildews, rots and wilts which may be treated using chemicals called fungicides. These fungicides may contain inorganic copper or sulphur compounds; synthetic organic compounds (such as dithiocarbamates) as well as ‘natural’ compounds such as clay. The fungicides have a beneficial effect in that they increase food production for an ever expanding population. However, some of these fungicides also have effects on the environment at a much larger scale than the intended microscopic one, due to their persistence in the environment (i.e. they do not break down with time and can accumulate). They can be toxic to soil organisms such as earthworms and to aquatic organisms such as fish or even to humans. Thus, chemicals have many interacting influences on the environment at many different scales.

    Chemicals have also had many beneficial effects on the world in which we live. For example, water has been made safe to drink by treatment with chlorine. This is called ‘disinfection’.  Chlorine kills many water-borne pathogens and has no doubt saved millions of lives from devastating infections such as cholera, typhoid and salmonella. On the negative side, it is now known that when chlorine is added to water, it mixes with organic products in the water to form toxic by-products called trihalomethanes, which can cause cancer. Safer ways to disinfect water are therefore being explored such as ozonation.



    To be successful in environmental studies, you need passion, persistence and a willingness to do whatever it takes to succeed.  If this describes you, we can help you to get a start.
    You need to build a foundation first, to understand the science that underpins environmental health.  

    This course could assist you working in:

    • agriculture
    • local council
    • environmental protection n& management
    • in conservation
    • in fisheries
    • in biosecurity
    • in land management and forestry
    • in military


    ACS Distance Education holds an Educational Membership with the ATA.
    ACS Distance Education holds an Educational Membership with the ATA.
    Member of Study Gold Coast Education Network.
    Member of Study Gold Coast Education Network.
    ACS Global Partner - Affiliated with colleges in seven countries around the world.
    ACS Global Partner - Affiliated with colleges in seven countries around the world.
    Member Nursery and Garden Industry Association.
    Member Nursery and Garden Industry Association.
    Since 1999 ACS has been a recognised member of IARC (International Approval and Registration Centre). A non-profit quality management organisation servicing education.
    Since 1999 ACS has been a recognised member of IARC (International Approval and Registration Centre). A non-profit quality management organisation servicing education.

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    This course has been designed to cover the fundamentals of the topic. It will take around 100 hours to complete, which includes your course reading, assignment work, research, practical tasks, watching videos and anything else that is contained in the course. Our short courses are a great way to do some professional development or to learn a new skill.

    It’s up to you. The study hours listed in the course are a rough guide, however if you were to study a short course (100 hours) at 10 hours per week, you could finish the course in 10 weeks (just an example). Our courses are self-paced, so you can work through the courses in your own time. We recommend that you wait for your tutor to mark and return your assignment before your start your next one, so you get the benefits of their feedback.

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