First published: 10th September 2011
Take a look at this box for a mobile phone. It makes the bold claim "No Chemical Used". Oh, that's good, right? No chemical, no damage to the environment. Just one question, what's in the box? Everything we can touch, feel and breath is made of atoms of, guess what? Chemicals! The phone case is made of plastic - chemicals, the circuit board - more chemicals, the chips - yes, chemicals, the copper wires - yes, copper is a chemical.
So, perhaps there isn't a phone in the box, perhaps the buyer is supposed to hold their empty hand to their ear and talk to thin air? They'd be crazy, but no crazier than the person who designed that box label. Of course, if you look more carefully, there is an explanation, "RoHS-specified". So the phone complies with the Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive, meaning no lead, cadmium, mercury or other, highly poisonous substances.
The disappointing thing is that even a technology company, Panasonic, is getting dragged down into the morass of ignorance and fear of chemistry. Too often we are bombarded with the message "chemical equals bad, organic equals good" but the truth is we need chemistry to understand how our industries affect the natural world. Next time you eat or drink anything, and don't die from poisoning, thank a chemist.