Earth Day is fast approaching and, let's face it, if you celebrate Earth Day you probably hate science. And you really hate chemists.
But there has never been a reason for it, it is simply modern chemophobia. If you ask an environmentalist if they should use a chemical solvent or baking soda to clean, they will say baking soda - but baking soda is a toxic synthetic chemical (NaHCO3) unless it is used properly, where it is harmless and biodegradable.
Don't even get me started on all of the chemical carcinogens naturally found in an organic Thanksgiving dinner - you may never eat again. Chemists know what to worry about and what not to worry about and that just because a chemical has an effect in the laboratory does not mean it is biologically relevant. A leaf on a tomato plant contains hundreds of chemical compounds, many of them carcinogenic, for example, so don't crush them up and poison your spouse with arsenic but don't worry about getting poisoned by a tomato.
Dihydrogen monoxide sounds a little scary if people want to sell fear and doubt. Yet it's water, the most important resource we have. Despite the claims of environmental corporations raising money demonizing science, chemists are not out to create polluted water, most of them want to save it.
With Earth Day approaching, the American Chemical Society has created videos about three scientists who want to keep water safe. They are geared toward kids but interesting subjects for all.
- Transforming Tech Toy. UCLA's Aydogan Ozcan made a cell phone into a water tester that finds harmful mercury even at very low levels.
- Collins Balcombe of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is trying to find new ways to re-use the water that we flush away everyday so that it doesn't go to waste, especially in areas that don't get much rain. Take that, Muad'Dib!
- It's no secret that all medicine doesn't stay in our bodies and we want to keep potentially harmful pharmaceuticals out of the water supply. Anne Morrissey of Dublin City University is doing it using one of the other most plentiful things on the planet: sunlight.
This April 22nd, if you can't embrace science, at least give chemists a break. They care about the planet more than most people and they are bigger chemophobes than you are - they just know enough to know what to worry about and what not to worry about.
If you prefer scientists who are really, really paranoid about their field, order a steak with a microbiologist.