Food chemicals

I was tossing around the idea of doing some posts on the various food additives one sees (and which some people are frightened by, due to their long chemical names) when I ran across Science Fare's list of The Ingredients of Scientific Cooking. Some of these every cook has used (sodium bicarbonate aka baking soda; sodium chloride aka table salt; ethanol aka drinking alcohol, to name the three most instantly recognizable ones), and some are a bit more specialty (such as pectin to gel a jam - mmmmm, I remember my mom's jam) and some I didn't realize people used in home kitchens. Although in hindsight, the fact that I have seen a bag of MSG in the supermarket means that yeah, people do actually use them.

This list looks like an excellent resource, though I may branch out from it and look into some of the things used only in commercially produced food, because I am curious about some of these. Especially items such as preservatives, since without them, food (and even non-food items such as sunscreen) doesn't last very long and provides a potential base for bacteria and mould, some of it potentially harmful, to grow.

Chopping up pollution

Normally I just post whatever interesting bit of chemistry catches my interest on a given week, but today I'm posting about something of special interest to me. It's not about my work specifically, but it is about pollution remediation—and that, in a broad sense, is what I do.

This fascinating bit of cleanup chemistry targets some of the most difficult to remove pollutants. The unsightly colour of lignin stained water coming out of a pulp mill, pharmaceuticals passing through sewage plants (page 2), pesticide and herbicide runoff from farms, parks, golf courses, and lawns, and many others. Chemical warfare agents are even on the list of targets.