Are chemicals really bad for you?

Are we just living in a chemical soup? Find out about the chemicals we encounter every day.

Video source: RiAus on YouTube.

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We all live in a soup of chemicals. Does that worry you?

Chemicals are all around us. And their variety is constantly increasing as new synthetic chemicals are produced. But there is a lot of confusion around about what chemicals are out there and whether they are safe or dangerous. 

Chemicals can be either natural or synthetic, but that doesn’t mean safe or dangerous. Many synthetic chemicals are completely safe around humans, while some natural chemicals can be deadly, and are found in common foods such as apples, almonds and potatoes. 

And any talk about living chemical-free is complete nonsense. We are made of chemicals, and we consume a huge variety of them every day.

A cause for concern is that many chemicals are added to our environment every day, and in many cases we don’t know what effects they will have on us or other living creatures.

It’s been estimated that there are around 143,000 new chemicals that we’ve deliberately unleashed on the world over the last century or so. And a similar number of new chemicals have accidentally been released. Most of these chemicals will be completely safe, but some may be harmful and we do not fully understand which ones will be dangerous and in what concentrations.

While claims of an impending chemical apocalypse may be premature, there is a need to more effectively regulate what chemicals are out there, and what effect they’re having on our environment.

Now, four fast facts about the chemical soup.

The widely used and denounced herbicide glyphosate is less toxic than a commonly proposed natural herbicide concocted from vinegar, table salt and soap.

The artificial sweetener aspartame will not give you cancer, contrary to a widely distributed internet rumour.

Apples contain jet fuel, nail polish remover and toilet bowl cleaner. But don’t be scared. What matters is the concentration that they naturally occur in.

And despite a huge campaign touting the supposed dangers of the plastic chemical Bisphenol A, or BPA, several studies have independently concluded it does not pose serious neurological dangers or cause cancer in humans.

Want to find out more about the chemical soup? Check out our website, where we have some links. And we’ll see you back here next week.

The chemistry of cosmetics

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