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Get the Lead Out!

An Interdisciplinary Case Study


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.


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 Areas


Educational Level

High school, Undergraduate lower division



Type / Methods




Subject Headings

Chemistry (General)  |   Environmental Science  |   Environmental Engineering  |  

Date Posted


Teaching Notes

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Nation Ford High School
Fort Mill, SC 29715-1625
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.

Ann Taylor

Wabash College
Several of the links in this case are dead (all the ones I tried). The case is of current interest, especially considering the Flint water case and Calumet soil case.



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