Chemicals have gotten a bad name, with everyone running to 'natural' products. We learn more about chemical vs. natural, and which chemicals are unfairly labeled 'bad.'
Read the full transcript »
Rebecca Brayton: Chemicals have gotten a bad name recently and today we try to avoid them at all cost and go natural but is this necessary? Hi, I’m Rebecca Brayton and welcome to watchmojo.com and today we’re speaking with Doctor Joe Schwarcz about the chemistry of our daily lives. Dr. Joe Schwarcz: Well, first of all the basic the definition of chemistry just to get us started is that it is a study of matter and the changes that matter undergoes which means it’s the study of everything because matter is anything that occupies space and has mass. While the world is talking about cooking or cosmetics or drugs, we’re talking chemistry. Rebecca Brayton: Why would you say the idea of chemicals as basically friend upon today? Dr. Joe Schwarcz: Well, unfortunately the word chemical has at least in the late press would be made to be synonymous with toxin, poison etcetera which is very unfortunate because chemicals are just a building block of matter. They don’t make any decisions. They are not good or bad. It’s all a question of how we use them. Rebecca Brayton: What would you say as the most common myth about chemistry? Dr. Joe Schwarcz: I think the single most pervasive myth is that natural substances are somehow superior to synthetic. Whether or not anything is dangerous or not or effective or not depends on what it is and what the molecular structure and somehow we study that and what we know about it not its origin. There are all kinds of substances that are not naturally occurring which are decidedly dangerous. Starting with snake, venom in scorpion, venom in poison ivy – these are all natural and of course imperfectly dangerous. Rebecca Brayton: What are some chemicals that you would say have unfairly gotten a bad reputation? Dr. Joe Schwarcz: I would say the phthalates which are substances that are used in plastics to make them soft and pliable and this have been in the news’ great deal recently because of paper’s publish inside it literature linking it to a shortened anal or genital distance in rodents so people start to have this visions of abusing these products and having their orifices merged into one. What we need to point out here is that the human is not a giant rat neither is a human a giant test tube and the amount of phthalates that we’re exposed to our daily life is unlikely going to have the same kind of effect as we’ve seen with huge dolls as in rats. Can we guarantee that there’s no possible to block down effect? Of course not because science can never prove a negative. You can’t prove that something cannot happen but you make decisions based on the best available evidence at any time. Rebecca Brayton: Thank you very much. Dr. Joe Schwarcz: Thanks.