Chemophobia : A prejudice or true anti-chemical phobia?

“Every substance in the material world is made of chemicals.” Do you speculate food products, that are labeled with keywords such as ‘natural’ or ‘chemical-free’ safer compared to artificial foods products? If your answer is yes then, unfortunately, you have chemophobia. Although the good news is chemophobia is not counted as a phobia in the standard medical definition despite containing the suffix –phobia.

What is Chemophobia?

IUPAC defines chemophobia as an ‘irrational fear of chemicals, more precisely it refers to the growing tendency of a person to be suspicious of the presence of any synthetic chemicals in foods products he/she consumes. People who have chemophobia is called ‘chemophobes’. Wikipedia illustrates chemophobia as an aversion to or prejudice against chemistry or chemicals. Simply put, a person who dislikes or has made false assumptions against chemicals. American Council on Science and Health, defines chemophobia as a fear of synthetic substances arising from “scare stories” and exaggerated claims about their dangers prevalent in the media. Therefore there are different opinions for the usage of chemophobia phrase.

What causes Chemophobia?

One of the common explanations for the fear of chemicals is that chemophobes either have a very poor understanding of chemistry or don’t bother to acquaint themselves with the most basic relevant facts. Don’t let chemophobia determine what foods you should or shouldn’t eat, or hold you back from eating the foods you enjoy! The reasonable cause for the phenomenon seems to be health issues and safety concerns. People feel safer to make use of natural, organic, or chemical-free products instead of the man-made items due to the misconception that artificial products are toxic or bad for health. Read more on causes and effects

Effects of Chemophobia

A chemophobe will constantly review the ingredients column of any product he consumes. Also he will choose those goods that are labeled as natural over synthetic ones. According to the industry advocacy group American Council on Science and Health, chemophobia is a growing phenomenon among the American public and has reached “epidemic” proportions among the general public.

Are natural products safer to consume?

Chemophobes presume that artificially synthesized products are toxic. This false assumption has led to a popular demand for products that are ‘natural’ or even ‘chemical-free’. It should be noted that whether a chemical is natural or man-made tells us nothing about its toxicity. In fact in reality there are many chemical compounds, found naturally in plants, that are lethal to humans even in small amounts; similarly, there are many man-made compounds that are harmless unless ingested at very high doses. For example Botulinum toxin, produced by bacteria that grow in honey, is more than 1.3 billion times as toxic as lead. Therefore whether a chemical is natural or artificial should never be a factor when validating its safety.

How to treat a chemophobic person?

Treating chemophobia is complicated but not impossible. A chemophobe must be well educated or make understood chemistry. His/her misunderstanding about ingredients of different chemical products should be clarified. Chemophobe has to understand that the toxicity of any chemical product depends on the dosage factor. Some chemicals are even in a tiny dose that can kill a person and for others, even a high dose can’t be lethal.

How to overcome the fear?

Don’t let the word chemical trigger the fear into your mind. Understand that everything around you is made up of chemicals itself even you are made of a bunch of chemicals. Never jump to any judgments before proper research while examining chemicals. A genuine solution seems to begins in high schools, by notifying the students about industrial quality control and purification techniques to communicate the extremely high standards of purity required before chemical products can be certified safe for human consumption. Teachers can’t afford to stop conveying the safety messages during chemistry classes, but they can surely clarify them.

Hence illusions about natural against synthetic compounds can have devastating consequences. It should be understood that humans are chemically connected to the world surrounding them. Therefore we can conclude by confessing that chemophobia is a prejudice.

2 thoughts on “Chemophobia : A prejudice or true anti-chemical phobia?”

  1. Hemashree Shekar kotian

    Chrmphobia is very commonly found in people these days . Many of them have literally accepted rice brain oil and olive oil as subtitutes whereas being Indian our Indian origin food is more beneficial . Marketing of organic chemical free product is sky touching these days. We humans are made up of chemicals and our digestive system gives natural acid to dissolve most synthetic or natural chemicals eg: swolling up seed of jamun doesn’t bear a jamun tree in stomach ,same way swolling of ruppee coin is too dissolved by acid in stomach so no partiality by stomach acid then why human brains do it.

    1. It all depends on a person’s way of thinking and beliefs, but you’ve made a good point. A man of science will never hold such false assumptions. Thanks for sharing your thought:)

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