The Sceptical Chymist | Blogroll: Fighting fear

Published in Chemistry

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Editor’s note: As we continue to invite bloggers out there in the wild to compose our monthly Blogroll column, DrRubidium penned the April 2013 column.


Changing the tune on chemistry’s bad rap

Chemophobia has led manufacturers and proprietors to advertise ‘chemical-free’ goods and services; it pops up in literature by activist groups like Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families — and has even infected popular media outlets. The rise in the fear of chemicals and chemistry has many chemists, as well as scientists in all fields, asking what can be done to eradicate chemophobia.

One way to counter chemophobia is for scientists and science writers to tackle it head-on. Michelle Francl, a professor of chemistry who blogs at The Culture of Chemistry, responded to a February New York Times Magazine article ‘The Boy With a Thorn in His Joints’ about parents treating their child’s arthritis with ‘natural’ alternatives instead of the recommended methotrexate. Writing in Slate, Francl pointed out that the parents’ ‘natural’ alternatives were also chemicals — ones that have their own safety concerns. Stressing that everything is a chemical and all chemicals have risks are tips that Francl gives for fighting a ‘chemophobia pandemic’.

ChemBark offers another way to fight chemophobia — by chemists doing outreach. “I think it is important that every chemist spends some time engaging the general public for the purposes of education and promoting the benefits of our field” wrote ChemBark in his post ‘Combatting Chemophobia‘. Writing as if he’s talking to an outreach naysayer, ChemBark answers typical questions like “What’s in it for me?” and charges like “I can’t put that on my CV!”

Why fight chemophobia? For one thing, chemistry is “…the amazing and beautiful science of stuff…” as Hank Green puts it in his video on the nucleus for Crash Course — a YouTube channel where you can learn about topics from literature to ecology to chemistry.

Written by DrRubidium, who blogs at and


[As mentioned in this post, we’re posting the monthly blogroll column here on the Sceptical Chymist. This is the April 2013 article]

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