International Year of Chemistry, 2011

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How much arsenic do we eat? Analytical chemists make light work in tracking potentially harmful chemicals

Activity by Julian Tyson   |   added on Oct 25, 2011   |   United States Official_iyc_logo

Sponsor(s): American Chemical Society Analytical Division and Chemistry Departmetn UMass Amherst

Lecture-demonstration about applications of spectroscopy with particular reference to arsenic in rice. Members of the audience will be recruited for subsequent citizen scientist activity and will take home a test kit to measure arsenic in rice and water.

Public lecture/demonstration on Dec 8th at 7:30 pm in Room 135 Integrated Sciences Building, UMass Amherst entitled “How much arsenic do we eat?  Analytical chemists make light work in tracking potentially harmful chemicals.”


Professor Tyson is looking to recruit 35 members of the public to his research group who will be supplied with equipment after the lecture to measure the arsenic content of rice. In the lecture he will explain the role of chemical analysis in answering the question, “Is it safe to . . .?” with particular reference to the arsenic compounds in our environment. He will show how this information can be obtained by examining the interaction of light with molecules and atoms and will demonstrate how to measure arsenic with the Gutzeit modification of the Marsh test.  He will describe on-going research in his group by undergraduates and teachers who are developing a procedure in which the image of a colored spot, taken with a digital still camera, is processed to get a number that can be related to the arsenic concentration. The newly recruited members of his group will use this method.


If you would like to participate in the arsenic-in-rice study, please email Professor Tyson at with some relevant information.

Topic: demonstrations, analytical chemistry Audience: students, general public, teachers, secondary school students, high schools, school children
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