Chemicals are an irreplaceable part of our lives. They are everywhere, right from the clothes you wear, to the food you eat. There isn’t a task in your routine that you can do without chemicals.
The water you drink is also a chemical! H2O. Your experience is designed by chemicals even while you watch a simple motivational video on the internet. Here’s how - the screen that displays the video is either made of gallium arsenide (GaAs) or gallium phosphide (GaP), or gallium arsenide phosphide (GaAsP), and the motivational feeling you get is also induced by the preparation of dopamine- a chemical in you!
Then how come something so essential earns this terrible reputation?
By definition, chemicals are, “substances that are used or produced in a chemical process.”.
There are often conversations about how chemicals must be eliminated from your life, especially amongst the “internet gurus”, who tend to claim multiple things without backing it up by a solid source. But this is not new, as creating mistrust is very easy.
Pseudoscience and its high acceptance
In 1998, Andrew Wakefield, along with his colleagues, published a case series in the Lancet. The case suggested that the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine may predispose to behavioral regression and pervasive developmental disorder (or autism) in children. Despite the small sample size (n=12), the uncontrolled design, and the speculative nature of the conclusions, the paper was widely reported, and the information spread like wildfire among parents, especially those with autistic children.
The paper was retracted after numerous other scientists could not replicate his study. Since then, no other research has shown a connection between vaccines and mental disorders. Nevertheless, many parents still hold reservations about the vaccine. Wakefield’s paper has been linked to declines in vaccination and a corresponding increase in measles cases.
Not all chemicals are good, and not every chemical can be used for anything and everything. But it takes one popular blog, one research paper to make a certain chemical absolutely redundant. And that’s not fair, here’s why,
1. Concentration is key- Every chemical has its function, but just the way everything is good at a certain concentration, so are chemicals! Did you know that drinking too much water can lead to Hyponatremia!
2. It’s got a lot to do with perception! The word chemical is always associated with accidents, pollution, toxins, etc. Even the development of dynamite, which saved thousands of lives in mining, was perceived as a dangerous power and a curse on society. Food for thought: you ask anyone about a famous physicist, and they will mention Newton and Einstein; ask them if they can mention a chemist. Chemistry contributes massively to lives. Throw the right chemicals in a flask, and you can build an entire world; then why the bias?
3. “Chemical-free” is a myth. The fight is between synthesized and natural chemicals. One must note that one of the most toxic substances in the world is natural! Just two-millionths of a gram of toxin from the brightly colored poison dart frog can kill a human! Global warming has been attributed to rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, yet there is no substance more “natural” than CO2!
Sodium lauroyl lactylate is another example; a 100% functional ingredient used in beauty and personal care products. It is sourced from nature, processed, and is 100% biodegradable. Above all, it provides the perfect emolliency that consumers are looking for!
There’s good and bad in everything. Similarly, there are good chemicals, and there are bad ones. If chemicals cause “cancer”, they are also the ones that cure it. So the solution to a healthy life is not getting rid of chemicals, as it’s practically impossible to do so, it is to choose your chemicals wisely. Understand what role they play, the efficacies they have, and then make a decision.
Start with reading the labels behind the products you use, educate yourself to understand what goes into your daily lives. Don’t make decisions just because someone made a video from the comfort of the front camera on their phones or by simply typing out a blog. Take charge and make your own decisions.