Monday, January 23, 2012

Chemicals are NOT Bad

I'm rather irked today. It takes quite a bit for me to get irked, but I found something today that did the trick.

The new frenzy over the "flavor packs" in orange juice not being listed on the container has gotten my panties in a bunch. Normally, this would not bother me too much because I would figure it's just another trick from the media to get people all riled up. But this time they have gone too far.

They have given the word "chemicals" a bad name.

Now, let me ask this. Of all these journalists writing these stories about chemicals, how many of them actually took more than a few quarters or semesters in chemistry? My guess, none. So they don't exactly have the knowledge to write confidently about chemicals, in my book at least.

However, I do. I have a bachelors in chemistry and I have been working as a chemist for a year and a half now.

I can tell you that not all chemicals are bad. 

The media has created this firestorm over chemicals being in our food, in our clothes, in everything we touch and smell. It's actually the truth.

But what they don't tell you is that a lot of the chemicals they are having you worry about are in fact harmless. Take the "flavor packs," for example. If you read the articles correctly, hidden deep in there is a sentence that says the flavor packs are made from the peels of oranges, boiled in water, then concentrated down to form a "flavor pack" that tastes like real oranges. No other chemicals are added, just simply orange peels and water, which if I may add, is already in the ingredient list.

So what about all the other chemicals you hear about? Lead? Yes, it's bad. Chromium VI, yes. Citric acid? Nope! It used to be derived from citrus fruits (hence the name, citric acid), but some chemist in a lab found a way to derive it from mold. Yes, you read that right, mold.

But don't be grossed out! And definitely do not add citric acid as to your "do not buy any food with this ingredient" list. Once the citric acid has been formed, it is perfectly harmless. It is exactly like any citric acid you would ingest if you ate an orange. Nothing is different, other than the source from which it came from.

The only thing you would need to worry about is if you had a whole container of citric acid and sprinkled the whole thing over your food. Basically, for chemicals that are indeed harmless, all you need to worry about is the dosage. Usually, the high limit for chemicals that are found in your food, clothes, etc. are below any limit that will make you sick or kill you. This is also true for a good portion of hazardous chemicals. A normal person's interaction with most hazardous chemicals will be way below the limit where it will become a problem.

Unless you work in an environment like I do where I am a chemist and it's my job to work with chemicals, you should not worry about the chemicals you come in contact with. Please, I'm asking you, do not let the media throw you into a frenzy before digging out what is really true.

Thank you for reading my rant about chemicals.


P.S. If you have any questions about any other chemicals you have heard about, feel free to ask me and I will gladly look in to them for you.

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