Chemophobia Addressed | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 86 Issue 14 | p. 4 | Letters
Issue Date: April 7, 2008

Chemophobia Addressed

Department: Letters

I finally have an ally in, of all people, a toxicologist—Richard Becker of the American Chemistry Council (C&EN, Jan. 28, page 52)! I joined the Kansas State University faculty in 1959 as an analytical chemist. Even then, my students were afraid of chemicals.

It seemed the news media had a "chemical of the month" and were afraid of anything bigger than water. They had little idea of what a part per million was and a part per billion was beyond them. The toxicologists didn't help; to them, each chemical meant a potential grant.

Some students thought they had but two choices: either eat their food and be slowly poisoned or just go sit in the corner and starve. As a result I explained to them that our ability to detect had outpaced our ability to comprehend. Every time a chemical was mentioned in the news I repeated that statement and discussed it. Later on when I became a science adviser to the Food & Drug Administration, I had more data to present and I believe I slowly made some progress.

Becker says it a little differently, but the idea is the same.

Clifton E. Meloan
Manhattan, Kan.

Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
Copyright © American Chemical Society

Leave A Comment

*Required to comment