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Get the Lead Out!

An Interdisciplinary Case Study

Co Authors:

Laurie LeBlanc
Chemistry Department
Cuyamaca College

Robert Mazalewski
Department of Plant Sciences
University of California at Davis

Jonathan Cook
Chemistry Department
Cuyamaca College

Jasmine King
Chemistry Department
Cuyamaca College


This case study, developed for a general chemistry course, is intended to teach students the interdisciplinary nature of environmental science. Students take on the role of environmental chemists.  Using atomic absorption spectroscopy, they test for lead contamination in groundwater samples taken from an old mining district in Lake County, Colorado. After researching remediation methods, students propose practical solutions to local soil contamination.

  • Understand the nature of mining operations and their effect on the environment.
  • Learn about the effects of unsafe levels of lead in the human body.
  • Understand the theory and application of atomic absorption spectroscopy in lead determination.
  • Learn about possible methods of remediating contaminated soil, in particular, phytoremediation.
Keywords: Lead; Pb; heavy metals; lead contamination; groundwater contamination; lead poisoning; EPA action levels; atomic absorption spectrophotometer; soil remediation; phytoremediation; environmental chemistry; mining; Leadville; Colorado
Topical Area: N/A
Educational Level: High school, Undergraduate lower division
Formats: PDF
Type/Method: Laboratory
Language: English
Subject Headings: Chemistry (General)   Environmental Science   Environmental Engineering  
Date Posted: 04/21/08
Date Modified: N/A
Copyright: Copyright held by the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science, University at Buffalo, State University of New York. Please see our usage guidelines, which outline our policy concerning permissible reproduction of this work.

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Thank you for this Case Study. It is very useful in the classroom to connect chemistry with every day. Also good for the environmental sciences.

Nation Ford High School
Fort Mill, SC 29715-1625

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