Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Chemical free products..a myth.

Now a days the term 'chemical free' is used by many manufacturers to attract new customers, they want their customers to believe that their product is totally natural and hence chemical free which in turn means very safe to use (off course according to manufacturers). All natural doesn't at all means chemical free (as many people like to think), nature contains many chemicals and there are many complex chemical reactions going on in nature continuously, many of these reactions and chemicals are very essential for our survival (like photosynthesis). This tag line (chemical free) has become selling point for many processed food items, beauty products and many other consumable items. This way advertisement seems to be working because many people do feel that all chemicals are harmful to them and because of this the phrase 'chemical free' works like a magic on their psyche, many people buy and use these products without even checking validity of the claims made by manufacturers. Actually any processed food, cosmetic or any product which is packaged and sold in stores undergoes some processing and most of processing techniques involve use of some chemical either to increase shelf life of the product (preservatives), improve texture, flavor, appearance, etc. some chemicals are added to enhance quality of products (like vitamins in fruit juice and milk, iodine in salt, etc.), even water (H2O) is a chemical, so technically it is not only hard but almost impossible to find any product which is entirely chemical free. Calling any product chemical free is a absolute lie and is an attempt to purposely misguide customers.

But then why this phrase is used in so many advertisements? Why it works so effectively? Why people get attracted towards so called 'chemical free' products? May be the main reason behind this is overuse of some chemicals in day to day life which cause some harmful side effects on humans (like Bisphenol-A), some chemical disasters (like dumping harmful waste close to residential area by some chemical companies, or accidents like Bhopal gas tragedy of 1984), some side effects associated with some medicines, use of chemical weapons in wars...may be all these things have created some sort of fear about all chemicals in people's minds. But the truth is there are good chemicals and bad chemicals for humans and effect of bad chemicals get highlighted more often in news which helps to create this fear about term 'chemical' in people's mind. Poor knowledge about science and it's application makes this situation more complex. Due to emergence of processed food industry now a days people are consuming unprecedented amount of processed food, most of the crops are also genetically modified, so everything we consume or use contains some chemical, this all has created fear of over exposure to some harmful chemicals in people's minds, and there is very good reason behind this fear. Many of these things (like cosmetics, genetically modified crops, processed food, etc.) are launched in the market without proper testing on humans, they don't have to go through rigorous and extensive clinical trials as most of the drugs sold in the market have to (to get FDA approval). Most of these products (even though consumed by large section of population) don't require FDA approval, this makes them a very attractive business for big corporations and they earn enormous amount of money by selling these things. But these products because of poor regulations also put lot of people at risk by exposing them to cocktails of many chemicals whose actual effects no one knows (as they are not studied extensively), I guess people are willing to pay this price for the sake of convenience and comfort that's why very few care to educate themselves or care to ask questions.

Actually not all chemicals are harmful, in a same way as not all bugs are dangerous, we have many friendly bacteria inside our body which help us to digest food and remain healthy. Similarly there are many chemicals which are essential for our life and we need to consume them (like water, vitamins, proteins, etc.), basic building block of our body is a amino acid which again is a chemical, but at the same time not all chemicals are good for our health. There are many chemicals which are harmful or even poisonous, we need to stay away from them, some are very harmful for our environment also, we need to monitor consumption and disposal of these chemicals. Heavy commercialization of consumer products and tough competition has resulted in use of many cheap (but not necessarily safe) chemicals and techniques in many businesses and this is what makes some products harmful for our health and environment. Poor monitoring and regulations make situation more worse. Actually excessive use of anything is bad, if anyone is eating lot of processed food it is going to affect their health today or tomorrow, similarly too much sugar or oil is bad (but it's good to consume them in limited quantity), once we understand this simple rule then I think it will be easy for everyone to strike balance in their life. Actually we are surrounded by chemicals and we our self are made from chemicals, so technically it's not even possible to live in chemical free environment but we can try to create safe and healthy environment by eliminating or regulating harmful chemicals.

Rather than trying to misguide people by claiming chemical free products companies should try to educate their customers about their product, they should try to give as much information as possible about contents of their product. Effect of many commonly used chemicals in these industry on humans should be studied and published regularly for everyone to read. There is no harm in labeling GMO products, let people decide what they want to buy. This all will help people to decide if that product is suitable for them or not, this will work in a same way as doctors decide if certain medicine is suitable for particular patient or not. So let's try to get as much facts as possible and then base our decision on those facts rather than believing on some myths, as I said it's impossible to live in chemical free world but with proper use of them we can make our planed a safe and beautiful place for all.

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

[Copyright : Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing]

Links:
1. BPA Among Toxic Chemicals Driving Up Health Care Costs, Experts Say
2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bhopal_disaster
3. How did Vioxx debacle happen?

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