Stockholm university
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Environmental Degradation of Contaminants

Learn how pollutants are broken down in the environment! Most of the chemicals that we release to the environment are degraded there. Without environmental degradation processes, our chemical society would not be possible as we would soon be living in a sea of waste.


On the other hand, not all chemicals are broken down quickly, which can lead to chemicals accumulating in the environment and becoming problematic pollutants. Also, sometimes chemicals are not completely degraded but are instead transformed into substances that are even more problematic.

In this course, you will learn how chemicals are broken down in air, water, sediment and soil, and how sunshine and microbes facilitate their breakdown. Our goal will be to understand how the structure of a chemical influences whether and how it can be degraded in the environment, and how this degradation is influenced by environmental conditions.

Topics covered include:

  • basic principles of transformation reactions
  • hydrolysis
  • redox reactions
  • direct photolysis
  • indirect photolysis
  • biodegradation
  • chemical persistence
  • Course structure

    Teaching format

    The course includes lectures, workshop exercises, presentations and discussions.


    The course is examined as follows: Knowledge assessment takes the form of Written exam and written assignments.

  • Schedule

    The schedule will be available no later than one month before the start of the course. We do not recommend print-outs as changes can occur. At the start of the course, your department will advise where you can find your schedule during the course.
  • Course literature

    Note that the course literature can be changed up to two months before the start of the course.

    Schwarzenbach, R., P. Gschwend, and D. Imboden.Environmental Organic Chemistry. 3rd Ed. (2017) Wiley Interscience, New York, 1005 pages. This course covers selected material in Chapters 1-4and 21-26.

  • Course reports

  • Contact

    Study counsellors

    Department of Environmental Science

    Course coordinator

    Michael McLachlan,

    Department of environmental Science, unit of Contaminant Chemistry