Post Tagged with: "chemophobia"

Yes, there are chemicals in the shampoo!

‘Organic’ cosmetics manufacturers, the very epicentre of chemophobia, right? All those ‘chemical-free’ bottles of deodorants, shampoos and hair dyes.  It makes you want to pull your hair out just so there’s no need for their nonsensical products.  And here’s the latest from Daniel Field Organic and Mineral Hairdressing, tucked away in the FAQs is this gem.

Are there any chemicals in Daniel’s Watercolour [hair dyes]?

This is a question we are often asked and understandably so because there has been much discussion concerning the term “chemicals”.

Wait for it….

Many materials – both natural and man-made have a definite chemical composition; a common example of a chemical substance is pure water (H20) and so no manufacturer can claim that any product is devoid of chemicals – in fact all matter is made up of chemicals.

Well, that’s a turn up for the books!

And there’s more, the ingredients FAQs don’t shy away from ‘scary’ sounding names.

The nine ingredients for the dye pigments are as follows, followed by their safety ratings:

i. p-toluene diamine sulphate – PTDS

ii. m-amino phenol sulphate

iii. 2.4 diaminophenoxyethanol hcl

iv. p-aminophenol sulpahte

v. 4-amino 2 hydroxytoluene sulphate

vi. 4-amino -m-creosol

vii. 2-amino 6-chloro -4-nitrophenol

viii. 2-methyl-5-hydroxyethylaminophenol

ix. 4.5 diamino-1-(2-hydroxyethyl) pyrazole sulphate


Plus there’s real advice on the safety of each of the above.

All in all its very sensible. So bravo to Daniel Field, very well done indeed (edit: honestly no sarcasm here I really do think they’ve done a good job) ! You win the 1st Chemistry-Blog award for sensible chemistry information on an ‘organic’ product.

Now, what colour shall I have my hair?




Hat tip to @corrineburns

By January 28, 2014 6 comments Uncategorized

In defence of DHMO

Chemophobia and the use of satire such as the old DHMO joke, to tackle it seems to be the topic of the week. I’m guessing (and maybe I’m flattering myself) that my ironic piece in the Guardian, in response to the now notorious Buzzfeeds article, may have added fuel to the flames. So here’s my tuppence worth.

The latest round of the chemophobia debate started with Chris Clarke’s post Do you know douchbags are full of dihydrogen monoxide? Chris clearly doesn’t like the use of the DHMO ‘joke’, as it

 ..mocks alleged “gullibility” in a way that dissuades the corrected from learning.

plus its as old as the hills (or glaciers), as he puts it,

I first heard the joke back in the end-1980s, back when kilometer-thick sheets of solid-phase dihydrogen monoxide occupied the Northern Hemisphere as far south as present-day Kentucky, it got old fast.

Janet Stemwedel at Doing Good Science doesn’t like it either.

Really, all the target of the joke learns is that the teller of the joke has knowledge and is willing to use it to make someone else look dumb.

and she goes on to say

 ..there are instances where the dihydrogen monoxide joke isn’t punching down but punching up, where educated people who should know better use large platforms to take advantage of the ignorant.

I deployed DHMO in the Guardian (a large platform)  in an attempt to quench chemophobia and so even if Chris and Janet’s comments aren’t levelled directly at me, then very similar ones have.  Here’s my defence (and thanks to  for his).

The DHMO joke (and similar) is a clear example of reducto ad absurdum.  It use makes for a powerful argument. And the fact that the joke is old serves to flag up any satire. I thought that this plus the multiple links throughout and the increasingly ludicrous statements I made should also have made it clear that my piece was satire. I hold up my hands now and admit that it may not have been obvious enough (but then even more extreme examples of satire, in the Guardian, have recently been taken seriously).

I did not set out to punch down, up or any other which way. My aim was merely to demonstrate that through over extrapolation and application of the wrong spin any chemicals can be made to sound dangerous. I thought this was obvious. Admittedly it might not have been immediately so, that much is apparent from the comment’s thread which is littered with people who were taken in but then later realised the irony. What is also apparent was that the majority of those that did not realise it was a parody DID release that the arguments I appeared to use were garbage (I received plenty of abuse from this crowd). There was also a fair amount of concern that I was punching down (although that phrase wasn’t used). This criticism I take seriously. BUT after a trawl through the comments (donning my thickest skin first) there appeared to be little evidence of the punched.

In short, there were those that got it and thought it funny, or not, either way no harm done. Then there were those that didn’t get the joke, but got the science, no harm done here either (except to me who had to deal with some fairly vocal trolls). And those that thought it an in-joke which did more harm than good, but I don’t see much evidence of the harm.

Which all in all leaves me to conclude that we may be underestimating the intelligence of the audience. They aren’t abused and ignorant, they get the science, if not the joke.



By July 16, 2013 2 comments opinion, Uncategorized

Meth mouth: not ‘toxins’, just good ol’ tooth decay

As a long-time fan of media critic Jack Shafer, I remember well his diatribes against the myth that ‘meth mouth’ (the tooth decay that afflicts long-time methamphetamine abusers) is caused by the chemistry of methamphetamine or any contaminants from the preparation. The causes (dry mouth and lack of dental care) has been discussed in the peer-reviewed literature.

So I was surprised to see it in the middle of a really interesting article on underground chemistry by Discover Magazine:

In attempting to synthesize crystal meth, these do-it-yourselfers have caused a rash of trailer park explosions and often unwittingly produce a drug coated with toxins like hydroiodic acid. The best way to remove those noxious byproducts is by washing the drug in alcohol using a Büchner funnel, a specialized lab vacuum. But most kitchen chemists have never even heard of it. When this final purification step is skipped, the toxins eat away at the user’s gums, teeth, and inner lining of the cheeks, resulting in a toothless, hollowed-out condition known as “meth mouth.”

No, no, no. What causes ‘meth mouth’? Is it toxins? Is it uneluted hydroiodic acid? Well, let’s look at the American Dental Association page that it links:

The extensive tooth decay is probably caused by a combination of drug-induced psychological and physiological changes resulting in dry mouth and long periods of poor oral hygiene. A methamphetamine “high” lasts much longer than that produced by crack cocaine (12 hours versus one hour for cocaine). This can lead to long periods of poor oral hygiene. And while they are high, users often crave high-calorie, carbonated, sugary beverages or they may grind or clench their teeth, all of which can harm teeth.

So, there we have it. There’s no reason to blame hydroiodic acid (or the solvents, or “toxins” or acids in the process) when it comes to ‘meth mouth’; it’s just advanced tooth decay.

By May 26, 2012 2 comments science news, Uncategorized