INITIATION IN GREEN CHEMICAL PROCEDURES IN ANALYTICAL CHEMISTRY. A NEW APPROACH FOR PRACTICAL SUBJECT
One of the main objectives of the current university educational systems is to guarantee that graduates are able to face real situations in the exercise of their profession. Fundamental and very useful tools to achieve this purpose are the practical classes. Experimental sessions, which are based on the application of theoretical concepts and knowledges acquired during their academic formation, allow the students to develop new skills and consolidate their professional competences to address real problems in their daily work.
Nowadays, there is a huge social concern about the influence of human activities on the environment. In this sense, an important aspect at the pedagogical-practical field is the awareness-raising of students about environment preservation and which activities can be carried out to reduce the pollution by means of the minimisation of raw materials consumption and, subsequently, less residual materials production.
The current trends in Analytical Chemistry are focused on preventing and reducing all the possible environmental impact following the principles of Green Chemistry. With this aim, in 2003 QuEChERS (quick, easy, cheap, effective, rugged, and safe) method emerged as an interesting greener alternative respect to traditional sample pre-treatments and since then, it has become one of the mostly used procedures for a great variety of applications, not only because of the versatility offered and the good results obtained, but also by the possibility of reducing the production of chemical residues.
In this work, a new approach was proposed to introduce Chemistry Degree students into the green extraction techniques through the explanation and application of an alternative, simple and effective extraction procedure based on QuEChERS method for the resolution of a real problem of social interest. The developed educational strategy involves the familiarisation with an extraction procedure, widely applied in numerous routine laboratories, combined with chromatographic systems for the analysis of organic compounds. In this case, substances with oestrogenic activity were analysed in several dairy products highly consumed by the population. In addition, this is an opportunity to the students to deal with a real situation which constitutes a special concern for the scientific community and authorities as it is the determination of compounds that can produce negative effects in general population health.