Friday, March 11, 2016

Stop spreading chemophobia.

Chemophobia is on the rise all over the world, there is total misunderstanding about role and effect of chemicals in our lives. Misleading marketing gimmicks like 'all natural' or 'chemical free.' are used very casually. The major problem with these tag lines is that not only they are devoid of any truth, but they are also wrong impression about chemicals in general. Use of such phrases creates a perception in consumer's mind that consuming any 'chemical' is harmful for their health and products of these so called 'chemical free' brands don't contain any harmful chemicals. To a large extent all this propaganda and advertisement is responsible for creating irrational fear towards chemicals and creating a villainous image of industries dealing with chemicals. But in reality chemicals are integral part of our day to day lives. Without chemicals we don't even exist, chemical compounds called 'amino acids' are basic building blocks of our body, they are essential for our existence. Somehow the buzz word 'chemical free' is becoming the new standard for safety standards of any product we use. This whole propaganda is very misleading and I am amazed that even some scientists are contributing to popularize this myth 'chemical free means safe' . In its true sense nothing is chemical free, even water is a chemical, air which we breathe is a mixture of different gases with nitrogen and oxygen as its major components, so it is a misnomer to call anything 'chemical free.' 

One can definitely classify chemicals as safe chemicals and harmful chemicals. There are synthetically made and naturally available chemicals. Synthetic doesn't always mean harmful and natural doesn't always means safe. Many useful naturally available chemicals are synthesized in laboratory, as many times it is not possible to get the required quantity from natural resources, so even some chemicals with natural origin are produced in labs by using synthetic methods for commercial use and hence can be called as natural in origin but synthetic by production. There are many natural chemicals which we consume daily, like water, air, some vitamins, carbohydrates and sugars. These are perfectly safe and useful chemicals for our body if consumed in the right quantities. At the same time there are many synthetic chemicals in the form of medicines which we consume as per requirement, they all help us to fight against some life threatening conditions. Some synthetic compounds like pain killers also help to overcome pain or we use them as cosmetics. Even useful chemicals like medicines should be taken in prescribed doses as over consumption can create some serious problems. The fact is, even medicines which are supposed to life savers can be lethal if overdosed or consumed without need. Actually overdose of anything can create problems for us, if we eat only one type of food in excess it can cause problems to our health, in most cases it is the dose which is the deciding factor. There are various chemical products like plastics, paints, polymers, etc. which we use in our day to day lives, many people don't even have a clue about the chemical composition of these products but still most of us use it. Many of these products have become an integral part of pour lives. So if we look around, we can easily notice that chemicals are present everywhere around us, our lives are heavily dependent on them. I fail to understand the real purpose behind this organized effort to spread extreme aversion against chemicals. This is not only misleading but also a wrong thing to do as far as public health is concerned. Why don't all concerned companies and agencies try to educate people about different type of chemicals and their effect on human health rather than trying to demonize all chemicals? Chemophobia is misleading and doesn't serve any purpose.

Prof. Michelle Francl has rightly expressed effect of this chemophobic culture in her quote, "Chemical has become a synonym for something artificial, adulterated, hazardous, or toxic." Actually, we should strive to get a clear understanding about hazardous and non hazardous chemicals and their effects on our lives. I understand that it may not be an easy task for everyone, but that is why it is necessary to spread more awareness about different types of chemicals we use. We can make use of new technologies and social platforms to spread this public awareness. It is wrong to spread irrational fear about all chemicals. I don't know who came up with misleading terms like 'chemical free' or 'all natural' for processed food products? Let's get educated about the chemicals and try to make well informed decisions, this is good for us as well as all chemical companies.

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

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

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