|University Federico II
of Naples, Italy
"... chemical leprosy destroys life in rivers ..."
The wind keeps blowing - Pierangelo Bertoli (translated from Italian)
The immoderate consumption of Earth's resources and an industrial policy neglecting ecological issues are the major causes of pollution of our planet. In common feeling, however, environmental degradation is ascribed substantially to chemistry.
Such view is probably due to the enormous contribution of chemistry to industrial development.
Chemistry plays a significant part in activities like oil refining (which provides daily fuel for our cars, gas oil for heating and asphalt for road paving), or manufacturing of "plastics".
Nowadays no inhabitant of our planet is willing to do without the benefits obtained from chemical progress in industry (drugs, fuels, objects of all shapes and functions made of plastics).
Everybody, however, wants to preserve the environment.
Can we meet both requirements?
It is possible to intervene and improve the production chain with an "eye" to protecting the environment, by modifying the most polluting production cycles and replacing with new and cleaner technologies.
In addition, development of new products, that degrade in the environment more easily and relatively quickly (biodegradable plastics) or are optimized for later recycle, can help in reducing pollution.
At the same time chemistry can help the environment by "curing" it. Indeed a deep chemical knowledge may be able to identify and evaluate environmental risks, and to find out the proper "vaccine". People are hardly aware of the importance of chemical competency in purification plants (for instance, of sewage water) or for abating smoke and dust from industrial plants or from our car's exhausts.
Ecological compatibility, reconversion of materials, energy saving and new applications are the bases of Chemistry action for preventing risks and protecting the environment and the resources.