Chemical Free – Seriously??

One of my pet peeves is hearing people refer to something as “chemical free” - as if chemicals are something unsafe.  This comment is so misleading, and yet I hear this statement often being repeated within the aromatherapy industry - by people who should know better.  Some consumer labels claim that their products are chemical free – if they are then there would be no product AND no container in which to put the product! Everything on the planet is made up of chemicals – every substance that is made of matter is a chemical!  A human is made up of many elements – but mainly oxygen, carbon, hydrogen and nitrogen.  If we were chemical free we wouldn’t exist.  The plant kingdom is made up of the same main chemicals as the human – carbon, oxygen, hydrogen and nitrogen.

I think what people mean to say is that a product is synthetic free.  A synthetic substance is made up of chemicals as well – but they are made by humans using different methods than what nature uses, and these chemicals may or may not be natural. In other words, a synthetic substance can be made from a natural product.  A natural product is produced by nature without any human intervention.  Not all synthetic products are bad and not every natural product is good.

In 2001 researchers in California, who studied natural versus synthetic chemicals in the human diet, wrote “Among the agents identified as human carcinogens by The International Agency for Research in Cancer, 62% occur naturally: 16 are natural chemicals, 11 are mixtures of natural chemicals and 10 are infectious agents.”  Therefore, even the argument between the safe use of natural versus synthetic is open for debate.

I am not advocating the use of synthetic over natural – especially when it comes to aromatherapy, however I do think we ought to know the difference between the terms chemical free and synthetic.