Schoolchildren to test local water in world's largest-ever chemistry experiment

17 June 2011

A worldwide one-day experiment next week will provide a picture of the planet's pH levels.
On 22 June pupils from UK schools will participate in this, the world's biggest-ever chemistry experiment.

The experiment will be the largest single collection of data on water quality ever undertaken at one time and will be achieved by hundreds of thousands of youngsters around the globe becoming scientists for a day.

They will visit local rivers, lakes and waterways to check acidity and their results will later form part of a highly-valuable report on the quality of the world's water.

The capital's water will be tested when a group of South London pupils go to Parliament to be hosted by Gavin Barwell MP for Croydon Central after collecting their samples in Westminster.

The Global Experiment is the centrepiece of the International Year of Chemistry 2011, established by the UN to mark the 100th anniversary of Marie Curie's winning the Nobel Prize for  Chemistry in 1911. 

By conducting the pH tests, students will contribute to an online global 'map' of water quality and treatment.

IUPAC, the International Union for Pure and Applied Chemistry, considered ways of recruiting five-continent practical involvement in the year of chemistry. 

The water experiment was considered a powerful method of engaging young people on a spectacular scale with a measurable outcome which would help the environment.

Royal Society of Chemistry President, Professor David Phillips, said today: "This remarkable initiative will demonstrate the enjoyment that be gained from practical experimentation; also it will show that no one is too young to take part in science. 

"We believe the results will also provide a picture of global pH that will be very informative. So the work by students all over our country, and in others where the experiment will be taking place on the same day, is of genuine national and international use.

"Also this hands-on work will complement the RSC's own desire to have a greater amount of practical experimentation in UK schools, an issue which is now being examined by a Commons select committee."

The tests for pH levels are very important because most aquatic animals and plants have adapted to life in water with a specific pH and may suffer from even a slight change. Even moderately acidic water (low pH) may reduce the hatching success of fish eggs, irritate fish and aquatic insect gills, and damage membranes.

Amphibians are particularly vulnerable to low pH, likely because their skin is so sensitive to pollutants. Some scientists believe the recent drop in amphibian numbers around the world is due
to low pH levels caused by acid rain.

Heavy metals such as cadmium, lead, and chromium dissolve more easily in more acidic water (lower pH). This is important because many heavy metals also become much more toxic when dissolved in water and this is a part serious problem in certain regions of the world.

Global Chemistry Experiment

A project to engage schools across the world in practical activities around the theme "Water: A Chemical Solution"

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