Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Chemicals and the Toxicity of Everyday Things

I am one of those naturalist type people who love to make things myself. Lotions, soap, sugar scrubs, laundry soap, you name it. I do so because I like doing it.  I like saving money. I like challenging myself to make new things. I don't do it because I am afraid of 'chemicals' in my laundry detergent. Here's why:

Everything is made up of chemicals.

Yes, you read that right. EVERYTHING.  Chemistry is the study of matter and the interactions with other matter. Anything made of matter is a chemical. Anything you can touch or taste is a chemical.

Here's the basics-
Protons, neutrons and electrons make up atoms.
( An Element is made up entirely of one type of atom, such as hydrogen.  All known elements make up our Periodic Table.)
Groups of atoms bonded together are molecules.
Molecules combined chemically by two or more elements are compounds.

Water is a chemical compound because its structure is H2O...that is, two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom. Table salt (who doesn't love salt???) is a chemical compound, as is sugar and the chalk your kids play with.

******All compounds are molecules, but not all molecules are compounds.******

That probably confuses you, doesn't it? Let me explain that one in another way....
...All thumbs are fingers, but not all fingers are thumbs.

Easy, right? Basically, everything you use, touch or taste is a molecule... a chemical. You cannot avoid it. Ever.

So why such a fuss over 'chemicals' in your laundry detergent?  And what about that pesky reoccurring word, TOXIC? OMG! That stuff is toxic! The toxicity levels of what's in your shampoo can kill you! Don't use it, make your own!
Who promotes this stuff? I guess just about everybody on the 'natural' bandwagon. Well, everyone except me (I used to, but I got knowledged..lol). And really, you shouldn't, either. There is almost nothing you use daily that is not a chemical.

But 'chemophobia' is so pronounced in today's society it is difficult to separate truth from fiction. People will tout just about anything to get their product sold, more hits to the website/blog, whatever. The problem is, the general public doesn't do due diligence, or can't for whatever reason, and they too jump on that chemophobe bandwagon.

Journalists and bloggers that say something is toxic should really do more research. That's not to say all journalists and bloggers are not...just that the majority of them do not do the research before spewing their opinions. So when an unsuspecting blog reader sees over and over again that something is toxic, they tend to believe it whether it is true or not.

Have you seen this meme going around?
Or this one:

Sounds absolutely dreadful, doesn't it? And most people ask what we are going to do about it!
People...think about what you're reading. Dihydrogen (di = two) monoxide (mono=one)....what it is really saying is WATER. Water has two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom.
Can it kill you? YES.
But are you really afraid of water? No. You drink it, you bathe with it, you swim in it. But it's a harmful chemical in the right doses. Just like apples are toxic in the right dosage. Are you afraid of apples? Probably not. You might like like to eat them, but that's different than being afraid they will kill you.

It's not the chemical that will kill you, it's the dosage. Eating an apple will not kill you. Eating 25 apples at once might (depending on your weight). Apple seeds contain hydrogen cyanide which is deadly. But eating an apple is perfectly safe. So how can you eat something that is deadly to you, and not die? Simply because it is the dosage of the toxin. And the dosage that will kill you is different from the dosage that will kill someone else. It's about weight. Your weight and the amount of the toxin ingested. For example, an apple seed contains about 700 milligrams of hydrogen cyanide per kilogram and each apple has approximately 7 or 8 seeds amounting to 4900 -5600 milligrams of deadly cyanide. That sounds like a lot, right? And for most chemophobes hell bent on scaring people with numbers, that's likely all the info they give you.  What they don't tell you is how much it would take to kill you. That's because the amount is different for everyone based on their weight. For an average 150 pound person, it would take approximately 25 apple cores eaten at one sitting to equal enough hydrogen cyanide to kill you.

So the next time you see someone on Pinterest extolling the virtues of their 'Chemical Free Laundry Detergent" or saying "How to go to a chemical -less beauty routine" or "Make Your Own Chemical free air freshener" do NOT believe them. Everything is made up of chemicals. Even if they say, 'Uses only natural ingredients!' it's still chemicals.
Essential oils are natural chemical compounds.  But they're still chemicals.
Baking soda is a chemical. The gasoline that fuels your car, and the plastic molded dashboard, are synthetic chemicals.
There are far more natural chemicals that can hurt you than synthetic ones.
A high dose of either can kill you, or at the very least be considered a carcinogen. Again, it's the DOSAGE that matters, not the chemical.

One of the most deadly natural chemical compounds on earth, Botulinum (in which one teaspoon can kill a quarter of the world's population) has been around for millennia, and as a species we have not become accustomed or built up a tolerance to it. So the argument that says 'But we've built up tolerances to natural chemicals, not synthetic ones!' is a very poor argument.

Bottom line is this- yes there are bad natural and synthetic chemicals. Yes, some can kill you. Yes some can give you cancer. BUT- if the dosage of the chemical was such that it would kill or harm the user, it simply would not be allowed to go on the shopping shelf. Period. Used properly, most chemicals are completely safe. Always follow label directions.
Drinking bleach can kill you. Drinking water can, too. Did you know there's chlorine (bleach) in your city's water supply? Are you dead? Nope. 
But I wouldn't suggest going out and drinking undiluted bleach, either. That stuff will corrode your tongue, mouth, throat and stomach and you would die slowly. It's the amount, and how it's administered. (Heck, some ladies put bleach on their hair!) Again, used properly, and following label directions, the chemicals on the shelf today are safe to use.

If you want to read further on the subject- check out the Sense About Science page. Inform yourself. Be better prepared when someone tells you all chemicals are bad, or certain chemicals are bad....the more you know, the better you can correct those who seek to push fear on you. Don't give in, better your argument. And you do that with knowledge.
Happy reading!

No comments:

Post a Comment