Chemicals in the News
The 50 chemicals lurking in your fresh fruit
Chemistry teacher James Kennedy creates ingredients lists for natural foods as effort to fight generalized ‘chemophobia’ – fear of chemicals
So, Is Sunscreen Going to Kill You?
Tips on how to protect your skin when there’s so much conflicting information about sunscreen out there.
EFSA: Sucralose is safe and does not cause cancer
Scientific evaluations of sucralose, conducted by The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), find no link between the sweetener and cancer.
The Science Behind Decaf
Chemist Joe Schwarcz examines the science behind decaf coffee.
Glyphosate Vs. Caffeine: Acute and Chronic Toxicity Assessments Explained
Fear of chemicals in our food has taken on an outsized role in the food discussion.
What Is a Pure Substance?
In a nutshell, a “pure” substance is any single type of material, such as honey, or salt.
Mother Nature? More like ‘Mad Scientist Mama’ — creator of chemicals good and bad for humans
Some of the most abundant chemicals in nature are simple. Many of those natural chemicals are perfectly benign; however, nature’s assortment of chemicals also includes many that are toxic by various mechanisms.
Coming clean…about clean labels
There is no official definition of a “clean label” yet this is one of the largest trends in the food industry.
Combatting Chemophobia With Wine
100 to 300 compounds are responsible for the full flavour of a wine.
Frozen Chemistry Controls Bacterial Infections
Chemists and molecular biologists have made an unexpected discovery in infection biology.
Reader Beware: Science Covered in the News Is Pretty Likely to Be Overturned
It often feels as though today’s health headlines are some scientific version of Mad Libs. And now there’s a study that provides evidence for that hunch.
Is Acrylamide In Your Toast Really Going To Give You Cancer?
Let’s get to the facts: what is acrylamide? A chemist explains.
Why Should Scientific Results Be Reproducible?
The evidence around reproducibility suggests that both are true: science is inherently uncertain, and it needs to change its practices.
A Chemist’s Guide to Car Seats
Many parents express concern over the chemical flame retardants used on their children’s car seats. How dangerous are these chemicals?
Why You’d Have To Eat 64 Cans Of Green Beans Per Day – Every Day – To Get Too Much BPA
A professor in food science and human nutrition looks at the benefits and risks of BPA in food can linings.
Scientist Argues Vaccines, GMOs and Cell Phones Are Not Threats to Our Well Being
Cancer epidemiologist Geoffrey C. Kabat’s new book examines common fears by putting news headlines and science in perspective.
Should Pregnant Women Be Concerned About BPA?
With thousands of studies published in the scientific literature, BPA is almost certainly one of the best tested substances in commerce.
What Chemicals Will We Be Eating And Drinking This Christmas?
Are chemicals really the menaces they are portrayed as? Take a look at holiday food staples like turkey and popular desserts to see great examples of traditional approaches to both processing and preservation, all using chemistry.
BPA-Free, With Regrets
With BPA, could it be that what seemed like a good idea at the time might have turned into a regrettable substitution? Steven G. Hentges, who holds a Ph.D. in organic chemistry, discusses.
Are ‘Natural’ And ‘Chemical-free’ Always Best For Your Baby?
Chemistry teacher James Kennedy writes that many new parents are willing to pay a price premium for a product that claims it is “natural” or “chemical-free” because they believe it’s ‘safer’ for their baby, but what do these terms actually mean?
Two Chemicals Together May Knock Out Zika-Carrying Mosquitoes
CDC reports that spraying an insecticide and applying larvicide may be best tools for combating local Zika.
Glyphosate Herbicide in Vaccines? Here Is What Concerned Parents Should Know
Anti-vaccine groups have claimed a study shows glyphosate in vaccines, however the study has not been released for review let alone appeared in a peer-reviewed scientific publication.
Ask Sweethome: Should I Switch to Aluminum-Free Deodorant?
A chemist debunks myths about deodorants with a closer look at several health studies.
Hot Water Causes Cancer? Don’t Believe It: Column
Have you heard that any hot drink can cause cancer? Take a look at the evidence before shunning hot tea or hot coffee.
The 7 Biggest Problems Facing Science, According To 270 Scientists
Today, scientists’ success often isn’t measured by the quality of scientific analysis or rigor of their review methods. It’s instead often measured by how much grant money they win, the number of studies they publish, and how much their findings appeal to the public.
Blue Shift: Don’t Let the Internet Scare You About Sunscreen
Get the details on the chemical compounds used in sunscreen from a chemist.
Nine Ways Chemistry Contributes to High Performing Buildings
There are many ways chemistry contributes to the buildings where we live, eat, learn and play.
What’s Inside Sunscreen? The Same Stuff That’s in Silly Putty
Learn about the ingredients that help to make sunscreen lightweight, yet still protect people from harmful rays.
‘Chemophobia’ is Irrational, Harmful – And Hard To Break
Natural chemicals can be beneficial, neutral or harmful depending on the dosage and on how they are used, just like synthetic chemicals. Whether a chemical is ‘natural’ should never be a factor when assessing its safety, according to science teacher James Kennedy.
The Chemophobe Food Scare That Won’t go Away
There are a lot of myths about MSG, or monosodium glutamate but what does the science say?
Blue Shift: How the Panic Over BPA Accomplished Nothing
When it comes to fear about the chemical BPA, reacting to headlines without carefully weighing evidence may not be in our best interest in the long run.
Scientists Say GMO Foods Are Safe, Public Skepticism Remains
According to a new report by the National Academy of Sciences, genetically-engineered crops are as safe to eat as their non-GE counterparts, they have no adverse environmental impacts, and they have reduced the use of pesticides.
10 Scary-Sounding Chemicals Your Body Makes Naturally
There has been a big push in recent years to live “chemical free.” But there’s one big problem…
Seven Things Pregnant Women and Parents Need to Know About Arsenic in Rice and Rice Cereal
People can certainly eat rice as part of a well-balanced diet, according to the FDA. Based on the FDA’s scientific assessment, parents and caregivers should feed their infants a variety of fortified infant cereals, rather than relying solely on infant rice cereal.
The Additives You Want in Your Food
Some ingredients added to food should be hailed for their contributions to our health.
What Is Thimerosal and Why Is It in My Kid’s Vaccines?
What does a pediatrician want parents to know about vaccines and chemical safety?
Kitchen Science: Everything You Eat Is Made of Chemicals
We are routinely warned about “nasty chemicals” lurking in homes and kitchens as well as told the benefits of switching to a “chemical-free” lifestyle. The problem is: the word “chemical” is entirely misused in these contexts.
Campbell’s Replaces BPA in Cans; Science, Marketing or Hysteria?
If not for chemical scares how would certain groups, who raise money based on nonsense, survive? It wouldn’t be easy, and so BPA became just one compound in a long line of chemicals that has gotten a “kick me” sign pasted on its molecular back.
If it’s Science vs. Motherhood, Can Science Ever Win?
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration—after reviewing hundreds of scientific tests—remains convinced that the tiny amount of BPA found in packages and products is safe, yet California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) added bisphenol A (BPA) to its Proposition 65 list of chemicals “known to the state to cause reproductive toxicity” last year.
SciBabe Yvette d’Entremont Debunks Food Science
There’s sugar-shaming, detoxing, and gluten demonizing diets. Chemist Yvette d’Entremont debunks some popular food myths with sound science.
California: Chemical Warning May Scare Poor From Canned Food
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s current perspective, based on its most recent safety assessment, is that BPA is safe at the current levels occurring in foods.
A Chemist Explains Why the Honest Company Toxic Ingredient Scandal Isn’t Really A Scandal
Sodium lauryl sulphate, also known as SLS, is found in laundry detergent and other cleaning products. Its primary use is to isolate the oils that have dirtied clothing so they can be rinsed away.
What Does The Word Chemical Mean To You?
Chemophobia has a variety of definitions, from an anxiety about chemistry, either in a learning environment or more generally, to an irrational fear of chemicals.
Chemist Invents Detergent That Could Repel Zika Mosquito
This breakthrough cleaning product happened entirely on accident.
Want To Change Someone’s Mind About Vaccines? Here’s A Start
A new toolkit draws on the available science research on vaccines to outline a guide in where to start the conversations.
Stretchable Nano-Devices Towards Smart Contact Lenses
Using this technology, high-tech lenses could one day filter harmful optical radiation without interfering with vision.
Chemistry Trick Paves Way For Safer Diabetes Medication
By modifying a molecule, researchers from the University of Copenhagen have found an entirely new approach for designing insulin-based pharmaceuticals.
Chemicals Aren’t the Culprit: Debunking the 6-year-old McDonald’s Happy Meal Story
A Facebook post features a 6-year-old pristine looking Happy Meal. But chemicals and preservatives aren’t the reason for the lack of decay.
My Food Paranoia Wake-Up Call: The EWG Wants Us to Be Afraid of the Food We Feed Our Kids — Here’s Why I Refuse
Several recognizable and highly trusted brands have secured the trust of many parents when it comes to rating products, but some of their warnings and recommendations don’t hold up to scientific scrutiny.
When Athletes Go Gluten Free
A new, carefully designed study of the effects of gluten-free diets on athletic performance suggests that giving up gluten may not provide the benefits that many healthy athletes hope for.
How Marketers Use Fear Of Chemicals For Profit: 3 Easy Steps
A new “Verified” program for cosmetics heaps on the fear while missing the mark on science.
We Should Care About the Discovery of New Elements: They Help Us See the Universe with Awe
On December 30, the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry announced that four new elements are being added to the periodic table.
Endocrine Disruption and Fat-Causing “Obesogen” Theories Crumbling As Research Rolls In
The concept of obesogens tends to rely more on fear than substance when it comes to scientific evidence.
The Most Ridiculous Health Claims of 2015
One activist demonized chemicals in food, no matter how benign, and suggested they’re slowly killing people. Find out why this is false.
Injectable Foam Repairs Bones
Scientists say a new biomaterial foam could treat bone defects and diseases.
It’s Practically Impossible to Define “GMOs”
The definition of GMOs largely depend on context and who is answering the question. In general, you might be surprised how often GMOs are defined as “anything that couldn’t occur naturally.” Learn why this definition for GMOs doesn’t add up.
Warning: Life Causes Death — California’s Toxic Warning Label Racket
Prop. 65 labels have become ubiquitous in California—so much so, there are more labels than there are California poppies, the state flower. But what do all these chemical warning labels mean exactly?
Free-From Claims Are Based on Fears and Should Stop
Cosmetics and personal care products should avoid using ‘free-from’ claims on their packaging as they just trade off fear, according to a cosmetics industry panel.
Poisons Chemists Hate, But You Just Ate
Check out a chemist’s perspective on four of the many chemicals you just ate.
The Right Chemistry: Food Emulsifiers and Your Weight
Emulsifiers are common ingredients in commercial mayonnaise, ice cream, bread and pastries. These molecules prevent separation of fat and water in a food product.
European Scientists Say Weedkiller Glyphosate Unlikely To Cause Cancer
Glyphosate is unlikely to cause cancer in humans, according to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).
The Chemistry of The Perfect Grilled Cheese Sandwich
Chemistry explains why some cheeses melt so deliciously on bread. It’s all about the chemicals and their various properties.
The Science of Sleep
Chemical manufacturing companies are innovating in science to help give a good night’s rest.
The Bacon Freak-Out: Why the WHO’s Cancer Warnings Cause So Much Confusion
Some news outlets are suggesting that processed meat like bacon or lunch meat is now considered just as bad for you as cigarette smoke. That is wildly false.
Kids Need Fruits And Veggies, Not False Alarms About Food Risks
The FDA has performed extensive research and reviewed hundreds of studies about BPA’s safety. The FDA has also reassured consumers that current approved uses of BPA in food containers and packaging, such as for fruits and vegetables that are packaged in cans and plastic, are safe.
Can Whiteners Damage the Teeth?
The active ingredient in tooth whitening strips and tooth-whitening trays is generally hydrogen peroxide, which breaks down in the body into water and a harmless compound called urea.
Ever wondered why chillis are so spicy or why asparagus makes urine smell? Science teacher Andy Brunning reveals the science behind a variety of reactions to food in his new book.
The SciBabe Talks Toxins; Your Questions Answered
The SciBabe, scientist Yvette d’Entremont (@TheSciBabe) explains what it means when something is “toxic” and what we really need to worry about.
What Do All the Chemicals in Our Food Do?
From apples to oranges, all food is made of chemicals. What do all the chemicals in our food do?
Modern Alchemy: Reverse Engineering Flavor
Watch how flavor scientists (aka flavorists) use chemicals to replicate and reverse engineer naturally occurring flavors like vanilla.
These Friendly Food Scientists Want to Make You Feel Good about Eating Chemicals
Lately, it seems that all too many restaurant chains are willing to capitalize on that fear by cutting out GMOs and “unnatural” ingredients.
FSU Scientist Invents New Foam Technology
Possibilities are promising for a new foam technology from Florida State scientist, Changchun “Chad” Zeng.
Does Febreze Really Work?
Does Febreze really work? Yes. The chemical cyclodextrin traps odors inside its molecular cage.
Coke & Diet Coke: The Facts and the Fiction
What really happens to your body when you drink a coke or diet coke? A chemistry teacher fact checks several scary graphics that have gone viral.
Actually, All Food Is Full Of Chemicals
New AsapSCIENCE video debunks several common myths about chemicals in foods as well as the difference between natural and synthetic.
4 Unbelievable Chemical Substances Humans Have Discovered
A Quora thread inspires this new list of the coolest chemicals. The list ranges from the world’s lightest, solid material to a metal that melts at room temperature.
Junk Science = Garbage Policy
What happened when health reporters and editors in popular media were tested by a scientist on whether they could distinguish a bad science study from a good one?
Science Denial: It’s Not Just a Republican Problem | Commentary
A former member of Congress expresses concern about the effect of the “science denying culture” on national policies.
Trying to Decide about Raw Milk?
Raw milk is milk that has not been pasteurized to kill harmful germs, according to the CDC. What else do you need to know about raw milk before adding it to your diet? Learn more at the CDC’s Food Safety Blog.
Pediatric infectious disease expert sheds light on vaccine myths
Vaccines save thousands of lives of every year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Though vaccines have a long history of safety, misinformation about the effectiveness and safety of vaccines still exist. A pediatric infectious disease physician, Nadia Qureshi, sheds light on the most persistent of these myths.
The Right Chemistry: Hexane residues in soy burgers are no cause for concern
What do we know about the safety of hexane, which is found in some foods made with soy (i.e., veggie burgers, meat alternatives)? Dr. Schwarcz explores what research says about hexane safety.
The Mischief Of ‘Regrettable Substitutions’
Though labels like “BPA Free” and “non GMO” have nothing to do with safety determinations from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), they can be found everywhere. This article explores the harm and confusion that can be caused when approved ingredients are swapped out for newer ingredients and processes that prove to be “inferior or actually harmful.”
Why Do Many Reasonable People Doubt Science?
Why does scientific knowledge on topics ranging from the safety of fluoride and vaccines often face such strong opposition? This article explores how we are all wired to rely on personal experiences and anecdotes when it comes to evaluating science, rather than research and statistics.
‘Allergic To All Known Chemicals?’
It’s impossible to be allergic to all known chemicals, but some people avoid a safe product because of an unknown name or word in the ingredient list. Scientist Henry I. Miller explores how this kind of fear of chemicals can lead to bad outcomes for us all, and even for the planet.
Snoopy Is Safe After All
A Wall Street Journal op-ed highlights the safety profile of BPA and criticizes expensive and unneeded BPA studies that are driven by “the periodic scares over chemicals in vaccines, foods and other products.”
VIDEO: New Report Says BPA Is Safe At Low Levels
A new scientific report states that “there is no health concern for any age group from dietary exposure or from aggregated exposure” to BPA.
Weight of Evidence: How to Make Sense of Reports on Toxicology and Pesticides
How can the public make sense of conflicting scientific research? The authors of this article suggest a “weight of evidence” approach is the most meaningful way to assess studies.
BPA Plastics Chemical Poses No Health Risk, Says European Watchdog
Scientific experts from the European Food Safety Authority have concluded that “BPA poses no health risk to consumers of any age group (including unborn children, infants and adolescents) at current exposure levels.”
Bisphenol A and a “Groundbreaking Study”
What does a study have to come up with to be described as “groundbreaking?” In this article, author and professor Dr. Joe Schwarcz disputes the findings and implications of a recent study on effects of exposure to the chemical BPA.
The Right Chemistry: Stephanie Kwolek Was as Tough as Kevlar, the Material She Invented
Kevlar has been made popular in bullet-proof vests worn by soldiers and police officers, but it was originally designed for use in tires. In this article, Dr. Joe Schwarcz discusses both the inventor, Stephanie Kwolek, and the science behind this revolutionary material.
When Anomalous Results Get the Most Attention
The author provides examples of studies using “questionable data to advance poorly supported claims” that are still getting published in peer-reviewed journals.
EU Committee Confirms Safety of Formaldehyde Nail Hardeners
An opinion released by the EU Commission’s Scientific Committee for Consumer Safety has confirmed that formaldehyde is safe for use in cosmetic products meant to harden or strengthen nails, at a maximum concentration of 2.2%.
The Danger of Advocacy Masquerading as Science
The author of this article analyzes a recent study about BPA in thermal paper receipts.
Nanomaterial Turns 90% of Sunlight into Heat Improving Efficiency of Solar Thermal Plants
Researchers at UC San Diego have developed an advanced nanomaterial that could be used to increase the efficiency of solar panels at concentrating solar power plants.
Pumpkin Spice Latte, Hint-of-Lime Chips and Other Chemically Enhanced Foods You Should Stop Worrying About
A chemist explains that chemical additives found in some foods are tested for safety, and “chemophobia” – or fear of chemicals – needs to be tempered.
Nanotechnology Process Makes Heat-Resistant Dyes
Nanotechnology is being used to help create high quality and inexpensive optical dyes that could be used in airplane cockpit windows, sunglasses, and plasma TVs.
Inside an Ebola Kit: A Little Chlorine and a Lot of Hope
Chlorine is included in kits distributed by the United States government to help African countries keep the Ebola virus at bay.
The Problem With Chemicals
The author addresses public misconceptions and fears about chemicals.
First Flexible Graphene Display Paves the Way for Folding Electronics
Graphene, pure carbon that is very thin, is being used in electronic displays that would allow the displays to be able to be folded, which could revolutionize the electronics industry.
The Raging Controversy Over BPA Shows No Signs of Abating
A cancer epidemiologist reviews recent research on BPA and highlights the importance of understanding the context in which scientific studies take place before drawing conclusions from the research.
Paraben Phobia Is Unjustified
In this article, Dr. Joe Schwarcz, Director of McGill University’s “Office for Science & Society,” writes that the current fight to remove parabens from cosmetic products is based on a flawed study from decades ago.
Meet BPA-Free, the New BPA
In this article, the author states that BPA-Free alternatives are coming under attack from some of the same entities that had previously targeted BPA.
“Parallel Science” of NGO Advocacy Groups: How Post-Modernism Encourages Pseudo-Science
This author criticizes policy advocates who support science only when it conforms with their ideology.
Are You Exposed to BPA, and Does It Matter?
The author, a Ph.D. chemist at the American Chemistry Council, states that the majority of BPA studies do not address actual exposure to the chemical and whether the amount to which individuals are exposed may actually cause harm.
Science Journal Pulls 60 Papers in Peer-Review Fraud
A researcher in Taiwan was discovered to have fraudulently reviewed his own work to get more than 60 papers published and has started a new debate on the sanctity of peer-reviewed journals and articles.
Chemicals, Deodorants and Breast Cancer: Making Sense of It All
A breast cancer advocacy organization addresses concerns about chemicals and breast cancer, stating that articles asserting such links are often not evidence-based.
Green Group’s Unscientific Attack on Soap
The author of this post states that criticism of antibacterial soaps is unfounded.
Do We Really Have to Worry About Shower Curtains Causing Weight Gain?
The author, an epidemiologist, criticizes an article published in Spry Magazine that makes claims about chemicals and endocrine disruption.
The Future of Food, With Fewer Pesticides: Thanks Surfactants
The author of this article highlights new research will help farmers use fewer pesticides based on the type of surfactant used in the pesticide.
FDA: No Low-Dose Chemical Dangers
The article cites a recent study by the FDA reconfirming the safety of BPA.
Five Myths About the Chemicals You Breathe, Eat and Drink
Dr. Lorch, a senior lecturer in biomedical chemistry at the University of Hull, highlights a number of myths associated with chemicals.
Manmade or Natural, Tasty or Toxic, They’re All Chemicals
Although the terms “chemical” and “poison” are sometimes used interchangeably, the author posits that the presence of a chemical in a product does not mean harm.
Combating Bad Science
Dr. John Ioannidis of Stanford University is creating a new laboratory at the University that will investigate meta-research. The article discusses that the institute will monitor peer reviewed journals to ensure that policy makers do not reach “decisions on the basis of flaky studies.”
100% of Canned Food Tested for Bisphenol A (BPA) Safe to Consume
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency released findings from a study that shows that “BPA was not detected in 98.5 percent of canned foods,” and of those samples found to contain BPA, all were at low levels.
The Triclosan Controversy: What Are the Facts?
This article points out while there has been an increase in focus on triclosan and its use in personal care products, such as toothpaste, there is no evidence to show the chemical is harmful, according to the FDA and the Cochrane Collaboration, an international non-profit.
The Tyranny of the Organic Mommy Mafia
This article delves into the peer pressure facing many parents raising their children and the increase of “helicopter parenting.”
Science Council Debunks Top Environment and Health Scares from 2013
This article takes a look back at 2013 and different ingredients that were put under great scrutiny by NGOs and activists and how these scares were not based in fact, included is a section on phthalates.
BPA: The Scientists, the Scare, the 100-Million Dollar Surge
The author of this op-ed challenges an article published in Mother Jones that calls into question the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) research that states that BPA is safe.
Guest Commentary: BPA Threats Unsubstantiated; Bill Could Hurt Taxpayers
Lawmakers in Wisconsin are considering legislative options that would require manufacturers to “conspicuously label” food containers that contain BPA. The guest commentary asserts that this bill could have adverse ramifications on Wisconsin.
When members of the Armed Services return home from active duty, they are welcomed by family and friends with yellow ribbons. This article discusses both sides of a recent report that has indicated that the dye in these ribbons “could leave a toxic residue” behind.
The “Toxic” Garden Hose? (Excerpt of “From Cupcakes to Chemicals: How the Culture of Alarmism Makes Us Afraid of Everything and How to Fight Back”)
An excerpt from the book “From Cupcakes to Chemicals,” highlights how misinformation can lead to misplaced fear of commonplace objects and activities.
Editorial Counterpoint: Misinformation Fuels Fears about Triclosan
Anti-bacterial soaps containing triclosan have been proven effective at preventing the spread of potentially harmful bacteria, but the state of Minnesota is currently considering banning germ-killing soaps that contain triclosan. This editorial offers reasons why this ban would not be in the best interest of the state.
Does BPA Make You Fat?
This article counters claims that exposure to the common chemical BPA is making humans fat.
What’s the Difference Between Hazard and Risk? (Video)
This video describes the differences between “hazard” and “risk” in an easy-to-understand manner.
Maybe That BPA in Your Canned Food Isn’t So Bad After All
This radio segment reports on a study from the National Toxicology Program at the National Institutes of Health, that found to biological impacts from exposure to low doses of BPA.
Grandjean and Landrigan Strike Again!
This article challenges the findings of a study published in Lancet linking chemical exposures to a variety of neurological conditions.
The Wizardry of Dr. Oz
Dr. Mehmet Oz has been lauded as “America’s Doctor” by Oprah Winfrey and has millions of devoted viewers, but the author of this article has a different opinion. She believes that “he can be neither wholly trusted nor dismissed.”
20 Tips for Analyzing Claims of a Scientific Study
Scientific research can be difficult to report in main stream media sources without causing confusion. This article gives tips to help consumers read and understand news articles about scientific studies.
Lethal Lunch Boxes and the Infestation of Fear
The author of this opinion piece discusses the irrational fear that many parents have regarding the chemicals that go into the production of many of the school supplies used by their children.