Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Chemical: Are you scared yet?

I recently read an ingredient list that proudly announced they were 'chemical free'. I did laugh out loud because in truth the only way to be chemical free is to not sell anything at all, not even air.....just simply nothing.

So what is a chemical?

Everything you can think of is a chemical. The orange juice you drank in the morning, the water you bathed in, the hair conditioner you used on your hair, perhaps even the oil you used.

I really do get that the fear of the word chemical comes from the association with something vicious that will burn, blind or kill you. This is unfortunately due to misuse of the word. Scientists to some extent are to blame for this because we often try to simplify things too much chosing to use the word chemical in place of the word toxin or poison.

A chemical in chemistry is any substance which has (or can have)a defined molecular description. (Wait, wait, I'll explain!)

What is a molecular description?

Let us take the example of coconut oil. If you google 'chemical composition of coconut oil' you will find several sites that list the type of fats that you can get in coconut oil. You will find variations in these lists because depending on the region where the oil is produced, different fat levels can occur. Same plant, different chemical.....(yep coconut oil is a chemical)

Also a chemical can be a liquid, gas, solid or something in between. It does not have to be a liquid or a powder. Chemicals can be safe and others can be unsafe. Some can react and others don't. The air we breathe contains oxygen, it is a chemical.

Why should you not fear chemistry or chemicals?

I think making a choice to understand is much better than making a choice to fear. Do not be afraid when someone yells out the word chemical. It is just a word. It may be a dangerous substance or it may not be.

A classic example is the little DHMO experiment. I am certain just by typing DHMO, some of you may be a little worried. DHMO is dihydrogen monoxide. Are you a little more worried? How about water? Yes DHMO is really just water.

If someone yells out chemical free........run like the wind! (ok just kidding...but seriously do :)).

If you want to entertain yourself a little more, do go to the DHMO site, it is a true classic. Please bear in mind that although the information you read is true, it is seriously exaggerated.


  1. Thanks for this post Jc. I tried to explain this to someone and she said I was crazy!
    I guess I will show her your post, since this IS your field. lol

  2. Thanks Brandiss. Definitely show it to her, I hope she changes her mind :)

  3. Brilliant post, and too true.

  4. I think it's really hard for people to accept that companies can get away with so many scare tactics and false claims when it comes to marketing. It really should be against the law to label something "chemical free". I think it's important to realize that "untruths" like that are on MOST product labels. Definitely, "make the choice to understand". Thanks Jc!

  5. JC - thanks for this, I'm a Chemical Engineer and it's crazy that ppl don't realize that MOST products though using "natural" products are still use chemically man-made processes. It's not like we grab coconuts and extract oil from them ourselves. Check out this recent vid on Baking Soda being defined as a man-made chemical, folks were up in arms: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SNxUTc9NWSo

  6. lol!! Reading some of those comments really cracked me me up so full sista. I actually do like kimmaytube's videos but I haven't been on youtube for the last few weeks!! That video, the previous ones and the comments were entertaining!

    I'm not sure about the video actually, I have to see where she is going with it because there was a definite emphasis on the word 'chemical' which sort of made it sound like a dirty word.

    She could just be pointing out that although it occurs naturally, it can also be easily made in the lab - in all probability in a purer form.

    I'm definitely going to make sure I tune in though and read the comments (with popcorn at the ready lol)


I love comments! All comments are moderated so they will only appear on the blog once I approve them.