If Natural Products are Chemical-Free, Pay me 1,000,000 Quid

This has irked me for a very long time.  Claims that organic foods and natural products are chemical free are nonsensical.  Everything is a chemical. Even if you could obtain 100% pure water, you’d still have a 100% pure chemical – an atom of oxygen bound to 2 hydrogen atoms.

Arguably, the highly publicized mishaps, misuses  and misunderstandings of chemicals (i.e. Agent orange, the Bhopal disaster, Bisphenyl A, hexavalent chromium, mustard gas, DDT, and the list goes on) have soured the seemingly innocuousness of such a general and, really, innocent word.

Happily, much like the gay community has successfully taken back queer from hateful bigots, the Royal Society of Chemistry wants to take back chemistry from the advertising and marketing world.  Here’s a press release (link) from the RSC:

£1,000,000 for 100% chemical free material?

30 October 2008The Royal Society of Chemistry is today reclaiming the word chemical from the advertising and marketing industries.

It has been misappropriated and maligned as synonymous with “poison”. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) recently defended an advert which perpetuated the myth that natural compounds are free of chemicals.

The truth, as any right-minded person will say, is that everything we eat, drink, drive, play with and live in is made of chemicals – both natural and synthetic chemicals are essential for life as we know it.

If, as the ASA says, the public believes materials can be “100% chemical free”, the RSC will soon be inundated with examples from people wishing to claim the £1 million pound bounty announced today by the RSC.

Dr Neville Reed, a director of the RSC, said today: “I’d be happy to give a million pounds to the first member of the public who could place in my hands any material I consider 100% chemical free.

“Should anyone do this, we will see thousands of years’ worth of knowledge evaporate before our eyes. We would have to tear up the textbooks, burn the degree certificates and retrain the teachers.”

The manufacturers of a popular “organic” fertiliser recently drew the attention of the public when it claimed in promotional materials the product contained no chemicals whatsoever.

The product’s manufacturer makes the fantastic claim to be “100% chemical free” in its advertising and on its packaging. The back of the packaging lists its chemical-free ingredients, which include phosphorus pentoxide and potassium oxide.

Related Topics


Dave Semeniuk spends hours locked up in his office, thinking about the role the oceans play in controlling global climate, and unique ways of studying it. He'd also like to shamelessly plug his art practice: davidsemeniuk.com