When it comes to what's for dinner - or breakfast and lunch for that matter-- many people suffer from chemophobia, an irrational fear of natural and synthetic chemicals that pose no risk to our health, a Dartmouth study finds.
Chemistry Professor Gordon Gribble, whose paper appears in the journal Food Security, argues that low doses of chemicals in modern food are inherent, typically harmless and often highly beneficial. He says most people don't know they are routinely exposed to a host of compounds in non-toxic concentrations in what they eat and drink each day. Even the air they breathe - whether in big cities or the countryside -- is full of naturally occurring and synthetic chemicals, including wine "aroma," flower "bouquet," perfume "fragrance," bakery "smell" and "garbage "stench."
Gribble cites the example of halogen compounds, which many people -- even many scientists -- assume are all uniquely man-made poisons found in dioxins, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and the pesticide DDT. But he says thousands of halogen compounds are, in fact, part of our natural environment made by protists, plants, animals and even humans for their own defensive purposes. Some species even use organohalogens, which contain carbon along with chlorine, bromine, iodine or fluorine, to mount chemical offensives against encroaching competitors.