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Importance Of Chemical Reactivity In Understanding Environmental Hazard

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1998 Annual Conference


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 28, 1998

Start Date

June 28, 1998

End Date

July 1, 1998



Page Count


Page Numbers

3.325.1 - 3.325.4



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Paper Authors

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Charles U. Okonkwo

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 3413

Importance of Chemical Reactivity in Understanding Environmental Hazard Dr. Charles U. Okonkwo Arizona State University East ABSTRACT

The focus of the ‘Chemistry of Hazardous Materials’ course offered during the 1995 fall semester is upon ‘chemical reactivity’ and its relationship to environmental hazard. The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) defines a hazardous substance as that which exhibits the characteristics of chemical reactivity, corrosivity, ignitability, and toxicity. There are other definitions of hazardous materials that use characteristics that are not listed in the RCRA definition. Absent chemical reactivity there would be no hazardous characteristics such as corrosivity, ignitability, or toxicity exhibited by a substance. There are certain phenomena and factors that are important within the context of environmental hazard, because they promote chemical reactivity. These phenomena and factors include, but are not limited to, type of substance and position in the periodic table if substance is an element, state (whether solid, powdered solid, liquid, or gaseous), buoyancy effects, heat and mass transport effects, pressure, temperature, wind velocities, weather conditions, catalysis, compatibility of chemicals during storage or transport. This paper presents the concepts of chemical reactivity, influencing factors, and their role in creating environmental hazard. The three instructors: a Ph.D. chemist, a master degree chemical engineer with thirty five (35) years industrial experience, and a Ph.D. chemical engineer with 5 years industrial experience used projects, case studies, video taped demonstrations as examples to illustrate the crucial role chemical reactivity plays.

Introduction I was part of a team of three instructors, who taught a course titled ‘Chemistry of Hazardous Materials’ which was offered under the hazardous waste management program. My students were employees in local industry and most had little or no background in chemistry. It is important to teach these students that reactivity is responsible for most hazards. The motivation for this paper stems from the thorough conviction that chemical reactivity together with influencing factors serve as the basis for a substance to be considered a potential hazard. Hazard is defined as a chemical or physical condition that has the potential for causing damage to people, property, or the environment [ 1 ]. The nature and state of a substance have a direct bearing on its reactivity. Other factors that promote chemical reactivity include, buoyancy effects, heat and mass transport, wind velocity, weather condition, pressure, temperature, catalysis, and chemical compatibility during storage and transportation. These will be discussed in relation to their contribution toward the potential environmental hazard.

Okonkwo, C. U. (1998, June), Importance Of Chemical Reactivity In Understanding Environmental Hazard Paper presented at 1998 Annual Conference, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/1-2--7177

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