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127 To reach this state of stability, both hydrogen and oxygen atoms create covalent bonds with each other, as illustrated in the diagram on the right. In a water molecule, two hydrogen atoms are covalently bonded to the oxygen atom. But because the oxygen atom is larger than the hydrogen atom, its attraction for the hydrogen's electrons is correspondingly greater so the electrons are drawn closer in to the orbit of the larger oxygen atom and away from the hydrogen orbits. This means that although the water molecule as a whole is stable, the greater mass of the oxygen nucleus tends to draw in all the electrons in the molecule including the shared hydrogen electrons giving the oxygen portion of the molecule a slight electronegative charge. The orbits of the hydrogen atoms, because their electrons are closer to the oxygen, take on a small electropositive charge. This means water molecules have a tendency to form weak bonds with other water molecules because the oxygen end of the molecule is negative and the hydrogen ends are positive. A hydrogen atom, while remaining covalently bonded to the oxygen of its own molecule, can form a weak bond with the oxygen of another molecule. Similarly, the oxygen end of a molecule can form a weak attachment with the hydrogen ends of other molecules. Because water molecules have this polarity, water is a continuous chemical entity. These weak bonds play a crucial role in stabilizing the shape of many of the large molecules found in living matter. Because these bonds are weak,
they are readily broken and re-formed during normal physiological reactions. The disassembly and re-arrangement of such weak bonds is in essence the chemistry of life. Water is a universal solvent due to the marked polarity of water molecules and their tendency to form hydrogen bonds with other molecules. To illustrate water's ability to break down other substances, consider the simple example of putting a small amount of table salt in a glass of water. Table salt, also known by its chemical name sodium chloride [NaCl], is an example of an ionic compound, which means that one of the atoms involved stole a valence electron from the other. In this case, the chlorine atom [Cl], stole an electron from the sodium atom [Na], resulting in the creation of an electronegative chloride ion [Cl-] and an electropositive sodium ion [Na+]. The two ions are bonded together because of the attraction of opposite charges. better understand ionic bonds After salt is placed in water, the ionic bond between the sodium and chloride ions is broken due to the competitive action of the water molecules that outnumber the salt molecules. The electronegative oxygen pole of the water molecule is attracted to the positively charged sodium ions [Na+], and the electropositive hydrogen pole of the water molecule is attracted to the negatively charged chloride ions [Cl-]. As with the example of table salt, water has the ability to dissolve many unwanted substances that have accumulated in our bodies over time, such as solid waste and toxins, and to flush them away through the body's natural elimination channels such as lungs, colon, kidneys, liver, and skin.