Monday, March 1, 2010

I'm chemical free!

I've been reading a lot about chemicals lately, I've made a big decision - I'm going chemical free! I'm getting rid of all the chemicals in my bath & body products, my household products, my food, my car, and my life. I'm chemical free and loving it!

Argh...can't breathe...air leaving lungs...(sound of me falling dead onto the floor and flailing about looking for attention)...

Guess that was a bad idea, eh? Because every single thing I touch, breathe, eat, hug, kiss, smell, taste, play, craft, and cuddle is made up of chemicals. The air I breathe (oxygen, nitrogen, and I'm sure a ton of farm soil as they till the fields around my house), the water I drink (hydrogen, oxygen, and a ton of fish pee!), the food I eat (too long a list to mention...but tons of various hydrocarbons, proteins, carbohydrates, and so on), and even my husband and adorable puppy are composed of various chemical compounds!

"Chemical" is not a bad word - it simply means something made up from elements, which means everything in the universe. You cannot have a "chemical-free" or "no chemicals" product because you cannot find anything on earth that is not composed of chemicals (I'm sure some people would argue light isn't composed of chemicals - I'm talking about substances you can hold in your hands!).

Why the rant today? Because twice this week I have encountered products claiming to be "chemical free" (in a pharmacy, no less!) or containing "no chemicals". And they get away without fear of contradiction because for some reason the word "chemical" means "bad".

If you're interested in learning more about chemistry from a great (Canadian) writer, then check out Joe Schwarcz's books on chemistry (available in fine bookstores and libraries everwhere). He makes them really understandable for everyone - I was reading them before I started studying chemistry seriously, and they are really enjoyable! Now we just have to get his radio show out here in B.C.!


Susan said...

Almost had a heart attack reading 1st paragraph. That was too sneaky! :)

Topcat said...

Thank you for your rant....I think people hear 'chemicals' and automatically put the 'harmful' word in front of it :)

Get Lippie said...

I wrote something about this recently too, the words CHEMICAL FREE are a nonsense, and they DRIVE ME NUTS!

Kate said...


Anonymous said...

Ok, this definitely bothers me. I hate when science people try to make nature people being seen as stupid. I thought science people were smart, but this just makes them seem childish and ignorant. I'm a natural and organic consumer in every way, from food to beauty and even clothing, and no one will convince me of going back to conventional because I finally feel I'm doing it right. Yet I'm a reader of your blog and I love your blog, I don't think science is a bad thing at all, but I do believe in responsible science.
I'll teach you what "chemical-free" means. Chemical-free, in the natural and organic world, simply refers as a product that is not manufactured with man-made, lab-crafted chemicals, which differ pretty much of naturally-occurring chemicals. Refers to a product that does not contains the result of a questionable science experiment. Or a product that contains natural ingredients that hasn't undergone through any, or only one (like saponification of oils) chemical process. A little example, processed foods are chemical-filled foods while organic fruits and vegetables are "chemical-free". Do you see the difference? Which one you think is healthier for you?
The same with natural. I often read scientists that say that things like petroleum, chlorine or ammonia are natural. We don't care, natural is not just about including earth-derived ingredients, is about including natural ingredients that have benefits for the skin but are not harmful for health, like many of their conventional counterparts. So, is not relevant that chlorine, ammonia or poison ivy are natural, they're not going to be included in a product just because are natural, is just a matter of common sense.
I believe, however, that is much needed a definition of "chemical-free" and "natural", to help science people to understand what that means, because after all, seems like they're lacking of common sense and just relying on what science has to tell them.
I'm alive! Do you have any scientific proof for that?

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Anonymous. My goal isn't to make anyone feel stupid - my goal is to educate and share information. I'm sharing information here by sharing the correct usage for the word chemical and the concept of being chemical free. You are using the words incorrectly.

Ammonia is natural. We produce it in our bodies. We also use it in our products, and if you're using any form of conditioner, you're using it on a regular basis. Chlorine is natural. It is an element and is found in all kinds of things, like salt. You are using the terms incorrectly, and no amount of arguing is going to change that. The organic and natural communities use the terms correctly as well, so this has nothing to do with philosophy.

Someone can use the word irregardless all the time, and it doesn't mean it's the right usage of the word. Using the phase chemical free is simply wrong. Using it to mean synthetic free is not the correct usage of the word. It's not a slam against anyone - it's just wrong.

I ask you to read this post again with the idea in mind that I'm not attacking your philosophy or you. I'm trying to correct the wrong usage of a word.

I can prove that you are alive through science. You breathe, you digest, your brain has electrical activity, your cells are dividing, you aren't decomposing - and those are just a few ways I could provide you are alive. Those things can be demonstrated through various tests. I really don't understand that comment.

And are you really arguing that common sense is more trustworthy than science?

Anonymous said...

I was reading several of your blogs and wondered what your thoughts are on the claims that certain chemicals in shampoo are harmful. I have tried the castille shampoo method and it was not good. I would like to try the cleansing conditioner method next. But then I go back to the memory of reading how all these chemicals go in our bodies and mess up reproduction, cause cancer.... do you find these claims true? Thank you

Anonymous said...

Taking it even further - even though lye is a natural compound, the lye used by the majority of soapers has been produced in a factory, it is man-made lye, which brings a lot of these products out of sync with the Anonymous view of chemical free.

I feel that people should just read the ingredients rather than needing a banner on the front of something to shout misleading information.

Robert Perrone said...

Hi Susan!
I was going to include this comment in the latest post (selling products) but I felt I would like to add it here. I plan on selling at some point. After years of studying artisanal fragrance creation, I am going to launch a line of fragranced, high performance hair and body products. The reason I chose this post is that I was at the local, full priced, grocery chain and came across a line of "natural" products and did some research. They are (on Amazon) asking for almost $20 US for 14oz bottle of body wash that is "chemical free". Imagine, a whole stack of shelves of this company's products. I can't even tell in the ingredients list where the preservative is. And the only (to me) recognizable surfactant is coco betaine. Is the caprylic acid used as a bactericide? Anyway, it gets my gall, just like it gets yours when people say ridiculous things on their labels, when companies are making products that I know I could do better. I hope in 24 months or so I will report back asking you for a mailing address so you can enjoy some samples.

Aqua (Water), Organic Aloe Barbadensis (Aloe Vera), Zingiber Officinale (Ginger) Extract, Salvia Sclarea (Sage) Extract, Foeniculum Vulgare (Fennel) Fruit Extract, Coco Betaine, Sodium Chloride, Caprylic Acid, Glycine, Glycerin, Organic Helianthus annuus (Organic Sunflower) Seed Oil, Tocopherol (Vitamin E), Urtica Dioica (Nettle) Leaf Extract, Rosmarinus Officinale (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Peel Oil, Vanilla Planifolia Extract

Imagine how the citrus and vanilla is messing with the viscosity. Must be using quite a bit of sodium chloride!