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                                                                                                                   Molecular Spectroscopy Project:


1: History        2:Importance and Usage        3: Spectroscopy        4: Current Studies        5: Future Expts.

6: HS Classroom Lesson:        A: Lesson Plan        B: Worksheets        C: Instructor Guide
5. Future Experiments & Conclusion
    The following seem like natural areas for future research into Fluorescent whitening agents (FWAs).

A. Health & Toxicity
    Because of its widespread use, humans are persistently exposed to them over time.  While it is clear that there are no identifiable short-term affects, beyond dermatitis in FWA-sensitive individuals (1), there is no health safety data for the longterm exposure to FWAs.  FWAs do degrade over time when exposed to sunlight and other oxidants, but there is little quantitative information about the decomposition products or the factors affecting the rate of degradation in the environment.  FWAs have been in use only for about 70 years, and since new variants are continaully being made, tested, and patented, the need for adequate chemical safety data continally increases.

B. Recycling (FWAs in paper products)
    The use of FWAs in paper products has made it difficult to recycle these paper products because it is difficult to extract the fluorescent dyes.  Research addressing this problem would decrease the amount of paper that finds its way into landfills because it can not be processed.

C. UV protection in textiles?
    Because FWAs absorb UV light and re-emit it as harmless visible light.  While opaque clothing typically blocks the UV-A and UV-B, perhaps FWAs could be used on sheerer materials to provide more UV protection surreptitiously.

    In light of how FWAs have become an integral part of modern life, it seemed fitting to include a lesson geared toward a high school audience that uses FWAs as a way to review previously learned topics and introduce students to the topic of fluorescence.  Since students can easily obtain many FWAs (e.g. in laundry detergent, bathroom tissue, and in high quality print paper), fluorescence serves as a real-life, readily observable demonstration of abstract spectroscopic concepts.  The next section includes a more detailed lesson plan and relevant resources.


  1. Shenoi, S.D. (2007). Pigmented contact dermatitits. Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology, and Leprology, 73(5), 285-287.