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Chemical Engineers - The Bad Guys

For many years I taught Chemistry in high school. I was constantly appalled by the position of hostility towards the subject and the chemical industry taken by other teachers and by the media. Intelligent and allegedly well-informed people would argue that the industry should be closed down every time there was an incident involving chemicals.

People link chemicals with pollution, spills and explosions. This link arises because the media coverage of the industry is inaccurate and distorted. Yes, accidents happen, they also happen on roads, down mines and at sea, yet those are rarely reported in the same way as a chemical spill or incident. One of the most flammable products, gasoline is transported by road, past schools, through village and city alike; yet those same peole would never argue that gas stations should be closed down.

Almost everyone I talk to has the idea that people are well paid in the chemical industry because it is a risky business. The reason that chemical companies pay well is because they want the best people.

There are risks associated with any business from driving a cab to running a nursery. Risk assessments in the chemical industry are rigorous and risks are reduced at every opportunity. People who work with chemicals are aware of the hazards and work follow all laid down safety procedures to reduce the chance of an accident.

Chemical engineers take the ideas that chemists have and do useful things with those ideas. Chemical engineers make chemicals on a large scale. We all use the products of the chemical industry in our daily life. These include bleach, paper, polythene, fertilizer, ink and glass.

Without the pharmaceutical industry our society would be in ill health. A pharmaceutical company takes chemical industry products like sulfuric acid, acetic acid and ethanol and makes medicines from them.

The chemical industry has produced designer metals that nobody has heard of, but these metals, like tantalum, invar and kovar are used in everything from telephones to double glazed window units.

Submitted by:

Ciara McGrath

Ciara McGrath taught chemistry for 28 years. She has four daughters and travels widely. For more articles click here. For more info visit invar and tantalum.




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