Making sense of chemical stories

Discussions on chemophobia (or whatever you want to call it) is a perennial favourite on chemistry blogs. But the conversation rarely extends out of our echo chamber. But now Sense about Science have joined the discussion with the publication of a guide entitled  Making Sense of Chemical Stories.

Sense about Science is a respected charitable organisation that  ‘equips people to make sense of scientific and medical claims in public discussion’. In short, they facilitate discussions between concerned/interested groups and relevant experts.  The aim of their guide is to bridge the disconnect between the lifestyle view (and popular definition) of chemicals and the realities of how chemistry is used to support the modern world. It does this by tackling common misconceptions about chemistry.

One of the key misconception that they address is that natural chemicals are somehow safer than man-made ones. The wrongheadedness of which is nicely illustrated by a pair of infographics  (designed by Compound Interest) that don’t shy away from admitting synthetic chemicals are often toxic but also make it clear that whether a chemical is naturally occurring or man-made tells us precisely nothing about its toxicity.

SAS - Natural vs. Man-Made Toxicity FINAL (1)


SAS - Dose Makes The Poison FINAL (1)

Making Sense of Chemical Stories is being promoted to the public, journalists, life-style press and policy makers. It, along with the infographics are freely available to download and distribute under a creative commons license. Or if you prefer a hard copy (or box full of them) email enquiries[ at ]senseaboutscience[dot]org  with your contact details.




  1. So that’s true that people should avoid eating whole apples? When i was young i had a friend who has been eating apples with inside seeds just to be famous(like kids always do). I feel sorry for him now. 🙂

  2. Pingback: We’re all made of chemicals | It's Chemistry Time

  3. Hi Mark,

    Would you be interested in an iOS app to check chemical names an chemical synonyms ?

  4. medicinal chemistry says:

    This study is amazing and surprising as well. The fact that some food contain chemicals that are toxic to humans it`s a very important discovery. But it is good to know that they are present in a very small amount, far below the harmful dose.

  5. Every time I hear people complaining about chemicals I remind them about this. Everything is made out of chemicals, and in some cases particularly toxic ones, but that automatically mean that it’s even remotely harmful.

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