The Truth Behind 7 Myths About Specialty Chemicals
Makers of specialty chemicals face a number challenges when it comes to developing and manufacturing products, from designing and building a facilities that allow them to perform their work efficiently and effectively, to meeting environmental health and safety requirements. Another issue they must wrestle with is the public perception that specialty chemicals, and chemicals in general, are dangerous and harmful to humans.
To be sure, there are chemicals that are poisonous, highly reactive, flammable, etc., and they can certainly cause injuries. However, to characterize all chemicals as harmful is inaccurate and may do a disservice to people and organizations that have much to gain from the proper use of chemicals. Consequently, it is important to take a step back occasionally and look at the truth behind the myths that have developed around specialty chemicals.
What Consumers Should Know About Specialty Chemicals
Below are some common misconceptions about chemicals (including specialty chemicals) and the scientific reality that is often overlooked.
Myth #1 — Chemicals are different than natural substances.
Merriam-Webster defines a chemical as “a substance obtained by a chemical process or producing a chemical effect.” Much of the world around us is created or controlled by these kinds of substances. There is no chemical/natural distinction.
Myth #2 — Manufactured chemicals are dangerous by default.
What many people don’t know is that while scientists have created substances that don’t exist in nature, in many cases the chemicals that manufacturers produce are simply copies of organic substances. They are made in manufacturing plants because it is more cost-effective than harvesting the substance from nature, and the man-made version is identical (down to the molecular level) to the “natural” version.
Myth #3 — “Natural” chemicals are beneficial by default.
Some of the most toxic substances on the planet occur naturally, from the neurotoxins in the venom of certain snakes to the deadly poisons found in many plants. In these cases and many others, the distinction of “natural” does not mean “beneficial”.
Myth #4 — You can and should try to eliminate chemicals from your life.
Many consumers are surprised to learn that the beautiful red organically grown apple sitting on their counter is the product of a whole host of chemical processes, none of which humans have anything to do with. That includes everything from the apple’s growth and development to the chemical reaction known as “oxidation” that causes its insides to turn brown when exposed to the air. In other words, it would be impossible to eliminate “chemicals” from your life.
Myth #5 — Many diseases are caused, in some way, by chemicals.
There is no question that exposure to certain chemicals can cause or worsen some diseases. However, too often people try to create a cause and effect relationship between illness and a chemical simply because the chemical is present. Making those unsubstantiated “links” is not helpful. There are countless laws administered by a multitude of agencies focused on environmental health and safety as it pertains to the manufacture and use of chemicals, and those rules and regulations do an excellent job of protecting us from exposure to harmful substances.
Myth #6 — Terms like “synthetic” and “man-made” are synonymous with “toxic.”
Our ability to reproduce, and in many cases improve on, chemicals found in nature is something scientists and specialty chemical manufacturers should be proud of. A great deal of time, effort, and care goes into developing synthetic alternatives.
Myth #7 — The risks associated with the manufacture and use of chemicals outweigh the rewards.
The truth is, without our understanding of chemistry and the products we’ve used that knowledge to create, life would be extremely difficult. From cleaning solutions that help protect us from harmful pathogens to medications used to prevent or treat diseases, specialty chemicals and chemicals in general are helping the human race thrive.
Partnering with Companies That Advance the Science of Specialty Chemicals
Our full-service engineering and design firm works with the nation’s top producers of specialty chemicals. We have 30+ years of experience helping our clients meet their engineering, design, project and portfolio management, capital planning, and environmental health and safety needs. Contact APECS, Inc. today to learn more about how we can help with your next specialty chemicals project.