Sense about Science ? equipping people to make sense of science and evidence
Making Sense of Chemical Stories
Leading scientists, toxicologists and dieticians debunk common chemical misconceptions
People are still being misled by chemical myths. This needs to stop. We urge everyone to stop repeating misconceptions about chemicals. The presence of a chemical isn’t a reason for alarm. The effect of a chemical depends on the dose.
In lifestyle commentary, chemicals are presented as something that can be avoided, or eliminated using special socks, soaps or diets, and that cause only harm to health and damage to the environment.
This guide flags up the more serious misconceptions that exist around chemicals and suggests straightforward ways for people to evaluate them.
The reality boils down to six points:
- You can’t lead a chemical-free life.
- Natural isn’t always good for you and man-made chemicals are not inherently dangerous.
- Synthetic chemicals are not causing many cancers and other diseases.
- ‘Detox’ is a marketing myth.
- We need man-made chemicals.
- We are not just subjects in an unregulated, uncontrolled environment, there are checks in place.
The Guardian - 'Notes and Theories' blog - Man-made or natural, tasty or toxic, they're all chemicals
The Conversation - Five myths about the chemical you eat, breathe and drink, this article was also covered in Lifehacker, Business Insider and Real Clear Science and IFLS
Cosmopolitan UK - Are detoxes a load of b*llocks?
The Daily Mail - Detox diets a waste of time and money
The Daily Mirror - Beware of toxic fad detox diets
Compound Interest - Natural Vs Man-Made Chemicals: Dispelling Misconceptions
Breast Cancer Campaign - Chemicals, deodorants and breast cancer: making sense of it all
American Chemistry Council blog - 6 Chemical Myths Debunked
Chemistry World Blog - Making Sense of Chemical Stories
CAMcheck - Making Sense of Chemical Stories
The Daily Express - Fergus Kelly commentary
The Daily Mail - The Detox Delusion
Chemist by Choice - Making Sense of Chemicals: Chemical Misinformation
Chemistry Blog - Making Sense of Chemical Stories
Biomonitoring Info - Manual provides context for understanding chemicals
All of our work is freely avaiable - please feel free to download and print the posters and send us a picture of them up on your walls.
Schools across the UK requested the posters for their classrooms, corridors and common rooms. You can help fund the printing and posting of the posters for schools here.
This poster is now also available in Spanish with translations by Gabriel Leon
This poster is now also available in South American Spanish with translations by Gabriel Leon
The new edition of our guide, Making Sense of Chemical Stories, is published with support from the Royal Society of Chemistry. We published the first edition of 'Making Sense of Chemical Stories' in 2006. As a briefing document for the lifestyle sector, it flagged up the more serious misconceptions about chemicals and suggested straightforward ways for writers and presenters in the lifestyle media to evaluate them. It was intended to open a conversation that promoted a stronger connection between lifestyle commentary and chemical realities. When we first published this guide we had journalists and lifestyle writers in mind, but since then it has been used far more widely: by helpline workers, midwives, GPs and many others who deal with the questions people have about chemicals; as well as people with questions getting in touch themselves. This led us to launch the new edition of the guide.
In 2009 we also published the 'Detox Dossier' with our Voice of Young Science network. In the dossier, early career scientists hunted for the evidence behind detox claims made for products and diets, and began a campaign to alert the public.
This guide was first published in 2006. It was reprinted in 2014 with minor changes. Some of the information in the guide may need updating. If you seek to rely on it, please contact us: email@example.com.