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We are witnessing an increasing number of untruths circulating in various forums on the Internet that loudly call out chemistry as the biggest problem of unhealthy life. Is that really the case, and do these people have a basic knowledge and education at all about the topics they discuss so fiercely. As a chemist myself, I have encountered many such prejudices, the only justification for their claims being that what they claim sounds good or frightening, so it must be true. I will give you a few examples from ordinary life where ignorance of some claims has been divided to a comic level. Or should we worry about that?
The words "chemical" and "chemistry" in colloquial speech have become synonymous with something bad, something dangerous, destructive and unnatural. "Don't eat it, it's full of chemicals," is a warning that some foods are bad for your health. For this fear of chemistry, chemical compounds and mixtures, there is also the term "Chemo phobia", which, in essence, does not represent a phobia in the medical sense, but rather refers to a kind of non-clinical aversion and prejudice.
Joke who was taken too seriously
When 14-year-old Nathan Zohner, a student at Eagle Rock Junior High School in Idaho Falls, did a school project warning of the dangers of di hydrogen monoxide (DHMO), he wrote that di hydrogen monoxide is a colorless, odorless substance thousands and thousands of people die each year, mostly due to DHMO inhalation, and that symptoms of DHMO ingestion include sweating, increased urination, bloating, and even vomiting and nausea, and electrolyte imbalance in body fluids.
However, even before Zohner's project, there were warnings on DHMO: on April 1, 1983, a local newspaper in Durand, Michigan, reported that there was a substance called dihydrogen monoxide in the city's water pipes that could be fatal if inhaled. . People signed petitions against DHMO, called local authorities to react and panic began to spread. Why?
*image source imgur.com
Indeed, why, if a dihydrogen monoxide compound is composed of one oxygen atom and two hydrogen atoms, better known as water? The whole story about DHMO was an April Fool's joke that was repeated several times and people, due to ignorance, more precisely insufficient knowledge of natural sciences, always fell for it. Some other names for water are hydrogen oxide and oxide, but none of these names sound familiar or instill the trust of ordinary citizens, who are laymen for chemistry. Nor does the danger of drowning and the accompanying occurrence of water consumption sound as terrible as the name dihydrogen monoxide. This name sounds like the name of some corrosive acid for dissolving limescale or the name of some toxic organic compound.
*image source imgur.com
However, it is not the only name for a harmless chemical compound that sounds terribly dangerous to humans. Imagine eating something that contains eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), octadecatrienoic acid, phenylacetaldehyde, hepta-2-enal, glutamic acid, valine, arginine, leucine, pentan-2-one and additives E160 . Would you eat that? If you are not vegan, it is possible to eat it - it is an egg. Ascorbic acid is vitamin C, and acetylsalicylic acid is aspirin.
The hemophobia movement advises its followers not to eat anything if it contains ingredients they can't pronounce the name on and not to eat what sounds "too scientific" and none of us should eat any of the aforementioned compounds, as well as sodium chloride, drink tea containing (1R, 2S, 5R) -2-isopropyl-5-methylcyclohexanol (scientific name for menthol) nor anything containing ethyl ethanoate or 3-methyl butyraldehyde (compounds that give aroma to wine and beer). We are advised that “we should not eat what our great-grandmother could not recognize as food,” and “not to eat what has more than 5 ingredients or ingredients we cannot pronounce.” Therefore, in my country, we should not eat avocados or pineapples , and especially not something that contains ingredients whose names one cannot pronounce.The impossibility of pronouncing the name of a compound here is an argument against chemistry.
All this has led to the creation of very vague marketing phrases "natural", "100% natural", "chemical-free" and organic, implying that everything that is "natural" or "organic" is united and healthy, and "without chemicals. " These marketing phrases take into account the fact that not all consumers have completed their studies in chemistry, biochemistry, biology, physics or some of the applied sciences, and then they shy away from scientific terminology. In these cases, it is forgotten that, for example, the green bud (Amanita phalloides) is a 100% natural but deadly poisonous fungus, and that the adjective "organic" is mentioned in the context of organic carbon compounds. Most of the compounds we find in our food, other than water and mineral salts, are precisely organic carbon compounds, regardless of the way those foods are produced. However, in an era of fear of science and fear of chemistry, these attributes are commercially attractive.
And in the end I can only say education is the key to everything. Don't take things for granted that you supervise on the Internet, especially from unverified authors.