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Environmental Chemistry

Code: MA317     Acronym: QA

Classification Keyword
OFICIAL Environmental Sciences and Ecology

Instance: 2018/2019 - 1T (of 17-09-2018 to 02-11-2018) Ícone do Moodle

Active? Yes
Responsible unit: Chemistry
Course/CS Responsible: First Cycle Degree (BSc) in Aquatic Sciences

Cycles of Study/Courses

Acronym No. of Students Study Plan Curricular Years Credits UCN Credits ECTS Contact hours Total Time
LCMA 36 Oficial Plan 2018 3 - 5 49 135

Teaching Staff - Responsibilities

Teacher Responsibility
Maria Antónia Santos Mendes Salgado

Teaching - Hours

Theoretical classes: 3,00
Theoretical and practical : 1,50
Laboratory Practice: 2,50
Type Teacher Classes Hour
Theoretical classes Totals 1 3,00
Maria Antónia Santos Mendes Salgado 3,00
Theoretical and practical Totals 1 1,50
Maria Antónia Santos Mendes Salgado 1,50
Laboratory Practice Totals 2 5,00
Maria Antónia Santos Mendes Salgado 5,00

Teaching language



The Environmental Chemistry lectures focus on explaining some of the natural phenomena, in particular chemical processes taking place within and between de different environmental compartments: lithosphere including soil and sediments; hydrosphere and atmosphere that characterize the chemical composition of each one. The second main objective is to understand how these natural processes can be changed by anthropogenic action causing contamination and pollution. Within this context a whole chapter will be dealing with toxic compounds, groups of pollutants and physico-chemical properties that will influence the fate of the compounds in the environment. The development of the ability to apply the theoretical concepts into practice is another objective of the lectures. Therefore, strong practical learning sessions will enable the students to know and use analytical instruments of routine and specific chemical analysis. This opportunity has the advantage of showing the practical application of some of the acquired concepts, providing the students with basic tools to choose from and to apply adequate methodologies to solve environmental problems as well as developing awareness of the quality of results.

Learning outcomes and competences

The students should be able to understand some of the natural fenomena in the environment and to predict the possible relationships between the different environmental compartments. They should also be able to formulate hypothesis and to plan experiments to test them using appropriate methodology. In this way the students should be able to identify environmental issues and put into practice methodology to monitor and eventually minimize adverse effects. Be familiar with quantification limits of an analytical method and their use in chemical analysis legislation, is of most importance.

Working method





1. Environmental Issues

Part I - Soil and sediments

1.1. Soil chemistry

1.2. Heavy metals binding to soils and sediments

1.3. Remediation of contaminated soil

1.4. Urban waste

1.5. Incineration

1.6. Recycling

Part II - Water

1.1. Physico-chemical propreties of water

1.2. Chemistry of natural waters: DO and BOD

1.3. nitrogen and phosphorus compounds

1.4. Eutrophication

Part III - Atmosphere

1. Stratospheric chemistry: the ozone layer

1.1. Light absorption by the molecules

1.2. Creation and destruction of ozone

1.3. biological consequences of ozone depletion

2. ozone destruction chemicals

2.1. CFCs

2.2. bromine and iodine containing compounds

3. Tropospheric chemistry and pollution

3.1. Smog occurrence and origin

3.2. Acid rain

4. Greenhouse effect and global warming 

4.1. Thermodynamics

4.2. The earth's energy balance

4.3. Major greenhouse gases

Part IV - Toxic substances

1. Organic compouds

1.1. PAHs

1.2. Pesticides (insecticides, herbicides)

1.3. PCBs, dioxines and furans

2. Heavy metals

2.1. solubility and precipitation

2.2. toxicity and bioaccumulation

2.3. Mercury

2.4. Lead

2.5. Cadmium

2.6. Arsenic

2.7. Tin

Laboratory sessions

1. Field work: collection of sediment cores. Fractioning and drying.

2. Sediment sieving

3. Determination of total P and phosphate in water of different origin.

4. Biochemical oxygen demand of water samples

5. Extraction and detection of PAHs by chromatography.

6. Desk study presentation.

Mandatory literature

Baird Colin; Environmental chemistry. ISBN: 0-7167-3153-3
Stanley Manahan; Environmental chemistry, CRC Press, 2005. ISBN: 1-56670-633-5

Complementary Bibliography

Ian Williams; Environmental chemistry. A modular approach, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, 2001. ISBN: 0 471 48942 5

Teaching methods and learning activities

Lectures, practical sessions dedicated to solve theoretical and laboratory problems and laboratory sessions where students hand-in group reports at the end of the session. 

Evaluation Type

Distributed evaluation with final exam

Assessment Components

Designation Weight (%)
Exame 70,00
Trabalho escrito 10,00
Trabalho laboratorial 20,00
Total: 100,00

Amount of time allocated to each course unit

Designation Time (hours)
Estudo autónomo 51,00
Frequência das aulas 49,00
Trabalho escrito 35,00
Total: 135,00

Eligibility for exams

Attendance of at least 75% of practical and laboratory sessions.

Valid for the 3 following years

Minimum score on the exam:  8,0 out of 20

Calculation formula of final grade

The final score will be the weighted average of the several components: final exam (70%); average score of laboratory sessions reports (20%) and the score of a written essay about a theme to be defined (10%)

Final score = exam x 0,7 + reports x 0,2 + essay x 0,1

The score of the final exam must be equal to or higher than 8,0 points out of 20

Classification improvement

Only obtainable by repeating the exam
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