How Scientific Testing Can Help Monitor and Protect the Environment

Many believe that the first ever Earth Day on April 22, 1970 marked the start of the modern environmental movement. Although that was over 50 years ago we still see continued degradation of the environment, as increasing industrialization leads to higher levels of pollution and contamination. Companies that are far more interested in profits and short term gains have shown little regard for our planet or the people who live here.

Clearly, continued disregard for the environment is not a tenable path to a bright future. Now, we find ourselves beset by increasing levels of pollution, smog-shrouded major cities and contaminants in the ground and water tables too. On top of those concerns, climate change is already having a major impact on our lives. Extreme weather events echo across the globe, leading to catastrophic floods in Pakistan and New Zealand and stifling, life threatening heat waves in other locales. These developments have served to increase our sense of urgency and highlight the need for positive change.

General Types of Environmental Testing

In order to protect the environment, government agencies and private entities will perform a variety of tests on the water, air and soil. Water is tested to monitor a variety of factors, such as pH levels, dissolved solids and the presence of pollutants. In order to protect our drinking water, tests are also run to detect the presence of parasites and harmful bacteria.

Air quality levels have deteriorated dramatically over the years, and public health reports consistently link air pollution with health concerns and even reductions in life span. Sophisticated equipment is used to help measure particulate matter and it’s size, as well as ozone and carbon monoxide. Soil testing is also necessary to determine the pollution levels.  These analyses focus on heavy metals, herbicides and pesticides among other things.

Using XRD for Environmental Testing

X-Ray diffraction is a powerful and useful analysis tool that can help identify key issues in our environment. The testing process often involves creating a small powder sample, which can be analyzed to determine the crystal structure, orientation and other structural properties. Each sample will have a unique diffraction pattern, which in essence serves as a DNA-like marker that can be used to quantify the unknown materials in a sample.

These tests can help identify the presence of harmful chemicals and contaminants in soil and water samples. As such, XRD can be used to test soil in areas that have been potentially polluted by acid drainage from mining operations. It can also be useful in helping determine levels of water contamination and identifying possible remediation techniques.

Other Scientific Techniques Used to Help Protect Us

Continued industrial development coupled with lax enforcement of regulations and environmental laws have led to an increase in harm to the environment. Fortunately, scientists can use a variety of tests to check for damage, including chemical analysis and biological monitoring.

Tests for chemical analysis, which help determine levels of contaminants in our soil, air and water, are conducted using different methods including mass spectrometry and gas chromatography. With biological monitoring, scientists collect biological samples such as blood and hair and look for biomarkers that help them assess the impact of exposure to pollutants.