What is Chemical Analysis?

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  • Written By: Britt Archer
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 04 February 2019
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To understand chemical analysis, it is important to first understand what chemistry is. Chemistry is the scientific study of matter in all of its forms, and matter is anything that has mass — or weight bearing properties — and occupies space. Scientists called chemists study the chemistry of things: what they are made of, how they behave in certain circumstances as well as on their own, and how to identify certain chemicals. The process by which this is done is called chemical analysis. There are two main types, called qualitative and quantitative.

In qualitative analysis, a chemical assessment is usually performed on one substance at a time. The substance in question is referred to as the analyte. The first step is to figure out what properties are unique to that substance, or the "differentiating characteristic.” Any number of properties can be unique to a substance, including but not limited to solvency (how the substance dissolves in different solutions, as well as what it dissolves in) and whether or not the substance absorbs or reflects light. Once the first step of testing is completed, the scientist performing the analysis must then find a way to identify the unique characteristics and compare the results with other similar or contrasting results.


Once qualitative analysis has been performed, scientists can then perform quantitative analysis, or the process of figuring out how much of one particular chemical is in a mixed substance. This involves another battery of tests that use the results of the quantitative analysis. Scientists identify unique characteristics of chemicals and contrast them with other qualities within the subject in question. These processes are often performed in specialized chemistry laboratories, as the equipment is specialized and handling of certain chemicals can be hazardous.

Analytical chemistry is used by a variety of professions and in a variety of fields. Doctors and others in the medical and forensic fields often use chemical analysis directly. Pharmaceutical companies and cosmetic companies often rely on its results. This process can even be found in unlikely places, such as the manufacturing of household goods, cleaning products and consumer foods. It may also play a role in other day-to-day items, such as when a company would try to emulate other corporations’ products, or when companies measure their own environmental impact.


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Post 3

@ GeorgesPlane- You bring up some interesting points as well, but caution should always be used when playing the role of creator. I am not totally against GMO food products; I just don't think we have the institutional capacity or regulatory framework necessary to manage transgenic products. I ask you this: What happens if transgenic species escape into the local environment? What happens if they cause more harm than good? What happens when we create a food system where we are reliant on a few multinational corporations to bioengineer global food supplies? These are all very serious questions with potentially serious consequences.

My position is that we should proceed with caution. Requiring initial genetic testing along with up to date chemical analysis laboratory testing is not too much to ask. At some point, humans need to start considering the consequences before taking action.

Post 2

@ Istria- You may have a valid point about the labeling of GMO foods, but they have been proven safe, and they are less resource intensive than normal food crops. Chemical analysis lab techniques have been proven as adequate, and genetic testing would only make the product cost more.

Besides, population growth has made the need for genetically modified sources a necessity. Resources are becoming scarce, and fish populations are declining across the globe. Products like GMO salmon could be a solution to overfishing and global hunger.

Post 1

I would like to bring up a disturbing article I read recently about the FDA approving genetically modified super salmon for commercial sale as a food. The fact that the FDA approved the salmon isn't the worst part, the most disturbing fact is that once it gets final approval, it does not need to be labeled as transgenic.

I only bring this up because chemical analysis lays at the heart of the debate over genetically modified organisms (GMO) and their introduction into the nation's food supply. The FDA considers the GMO salmon identical to non-GMO salmon because there is no chemical difference between the two. This is the reason that stores do not need to label GMO salmon, or

any GMO product for that matter.

I believe that the standard chemical analysis methods are not enough. I believe that the regulatory agencies need to do genetic testing on genetically modified products to determine if the nutritional, toxicological, and environmental effects these products will have on people, other animals and the environment.

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