Environmental science is a growing field as increasing numbers of people become more aware of our planet's need for human intervention to sustain various populations and as we realize more about the impact humans have on the planet. There are so many areas of study and diverse job opportunities under this broad field.
One way that chemists become involved in environmental sciences is in examining the impact human waste has on the natural environment. First, chemists determine the natural chemistry that exists in an uncontaminated area and then compare the findings following a chemical accident. After a factory releases emissions into the air or after it dumps chemical waste into a lake, environmental scientists determine what natural damage has been done. Environmental chemists monitor how much of each type of chemical can be released without causing environmental impacts; they also monitor what needs to be done when this boundary is breached. When large quantities of oil are dumped into the ocean, when chemical-hauling trucks overturn on an interstate and spill their contents, or when a boat catches fire and explodes in a lake, environmental chemists are consulted to determine whether the chemical balance of nature has been disturbed.
Environmental chemists often work closely with environmental geologists, who specialize specifically in looking at the effects of humans on geologic features such as ground water, the atmosphere, and fossil fuels. These scientists also monitor the ways humans dispose of waste within the Earth and what effects those disposals may have on surrounding human populations as gasses and liquids from massive quantities of waste eventually leak into groundwater and the atmosphere.
In both fields of study, scientists are trying to maximize the preservation of our Earth's resources and minimize the devastating effects humans can have on the environment.