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Green Elephant Blog

‘Chemical Free’: it’s Nonsense and Here’s Why

Beakers and test tubes on bench in lab

Recently, a Facebook follower of ours pulled us up. She had noticed that one of our Vendors was claiming their products were ‘chemical free’ and she rightly pointed out that this was nonsense.

Well….why..?? Too many chemicals are bad right…?? We don’t want to put chemicals on our baby’s clothes or on their skin do we…?? WRONG.

Chemical Elements are the Building Blocks of Almost Everything

Let’s get back to basics and back to school if you will. Do you remember the periodic table..?? I sure do. I wasn’t much good at chemistry but what I do remember is the periodic table. The periodic table lists all the chemical elements and we were supposed to know all of them by heart. I didn’t….

Extract from Periodic Table - no chemical free here

So what does this table tell us…?? Well, oxygen (O) is on there. It’s a chemical element and we can’t live without it. Combine that with a bit of hydrogen (H) and we have water H2O. Another ‘chemical’ we can’t live without. You know that white stuff we use to bring our food to life…?? Salt. Also a chemical compound made from the elements, sodium and chlorine (NaCl).

In essence, everything we can touch, hold, smell or taste is probably a chemical or made up of a number of chemicals. We should stop using the term ‘chemical free’ and need not be frightened of all chemicals.

Not all Chemicals are Bad. But some Are.

Perhaps the reason why the term ‘chemical free’ was ever ‘born’ or used in the first place was because of the overuse of inappropriate and potentially harmful chemicals in everyday items. We have written previously about ‘nasty’ chemicals that are all too often in our skincare, cleaning and laundry products. You know the ones I’m talking about. The ones that have been associated with cancer, allergies, reproductive disruption and hormone imbalances to name but a few.

So it’s important that we remember this whilst at the same time being aware that not all chemicals are bad for us.

Natural Toner ingredients - not chemical free either

So what About Natural Products..??

Around the same time that anything ‘chemical’ was deemed the devils work, the word ‘natural’ grew in popularity. And hands up here, I often use the term ‘all natural’ or ‘made from 100% natural ingredients’.

But what does ‘Natural’ Actually Mean..??

The term ‘natural’ is a hard one to define but is widely accepted as a term meaning derived from nature; or naturally occurring, as opposed to being synthetic or created in a lab. But not all things occurring in nature are good for us or even safe…. There are numerous poisons (some are lethal) that come from plants and not-so-nice petroleum and lead are also naturally occurring so the real meaning of the word ‘natural’ is often a matter of perception.

For me personally, as long as I trust the brand, the term ‘natural’ creates some reassurance that the ingredients used will be safe, although I still always read the ingredients list!! Usually, with really natural products I recognise most of what’s in there. I love that my skincare can be made of things like water, coconut oil, shea butter and essential oils (for example). I recently bought a skin cleanser/exfoliator product and the main ingredient was ground almonds. How cool is that…??! Likewise, natural cleaning products might include familiar things like water, alcohol and essential oils.

Natural products are not for everyone though and chemicals that have been formulated and manufactured with care can enhance the performance of skincare; think anti-wrinkle creams, firming lotions, skin peels and masks from the high tech luxury skincare houses that populate the ground floor of department stores.

Natural Bathroom & Kitchen Cleaner bottles

I am not sure the same can be said for mainstream cleaning and laundry products though because:

a.) There is no requirement to provide a complete list of ingredients, and;

b.) There are usually warnings on the bottles because what IS in there can irritate your skin and eyes, cause burns, trigger allergic reactions…. You see what I mean…?? Not great.

Having established that generally speaking, genuinely natural products are likely to be safer for us and not include potentially harmful and unnecessary chemicals, it’s still not guaranteed and some might argue that claiming products are ‘all natural’ by way of giving them some automatic seal of safety is just as nonsensical as claiming a product is chemical free.

So…Natural Versus Chemical…??

There is no right answer and it really is up to you to work out what you are comfortable with and what works for you and your family.

What we do know for sure is:

1. Nothing is Chemical Free*.
If you see this written somewhere on Green Elephant and it looks like a bit of greenwashing, please challenge us or the Vendor and we will make a correction.

2. Natural Doesn’t Always Mean Safe.
Just because something is derived from nature or ‘natural’ doesn’t mean it is safe for you.

3. Labels Aren’t Always Honest.
Just because a product is labelled ‘natural’ doesn’t mean it won’t contain chemicals that could be bad for you.

*Except for things like heat, gravity, energy….!!

My recommendation – swat up and get to know the chemicals that are best avoided, regardless of what the label says.

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