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Unit 3
Elements of Organic Chemistry

3-1. INTRODUCTION

Carbon is one of the most abundant elements in our world. It is part of the molecular structure of all living organisms. It is the basis for our fuel and energy production and it plays a large role in the chemistry of many of the synthetic fabrics and plastics that have become so important to our lifestyle. Carbon compounds also account for a vast majority of today's drugs. It is very important that you, as a health care provider, have a basic understanding of the chemistry of carbon compounds and organic chemistry due to the roles that carbon plays.

There are several general differences between the chemistries of carbon compounds and inorganic compounds, which will help give you an overall view of organic chemistry (Table 3-1).

INORGANIC CHEMISTRY ORGANIC CHEMISTRY
TYPE OF BONDING Ionic Covalent
MOLECULAR SIZE Small Large
WATER SOLUBILITY Soluble Insoluble
SOLUBILITY IN ORGANIC SOLVENTS Insoluble Soluble
CLASSES OF COMPOUNDS Acid, base, or salt Many (functional groups)
STRUCTURAL FORMULAS Unimportant Very important

Table 3-1. Comparison of organic and inorganic chemistry.