chemicals ad campaign

May 16, 2012 at 9:41 am | | science and the public, science@home

Paul has a good first draft of a chemicals ad campaign. But I was more inspired by Klaas Wynne‘s “We love … eat … live chemicals” poster:

The reason I like it is that it points out that “chemical-free” is a stupid label, and that not all chemicals are bad (at the right doses). This type of poster could be also applied to “chemical-free” shampoos, by listing what’s in natural coconut and mint oils. I also think it would be cool to draw all those chemicals (make the size of the structure correspond to the relative amount in the apple), and repeat for several “natural” and man-made products.

I think that the “We love chemicals” posters could be combined with a set of “Natural isn’t aways safe” posters. For instance, Andrea writes about an example of dangerous natural foodstuffs. And there’s always Jim Collman’s book Naturally Dangerous.

Here are my quick drafts:

I’m moderately satisfied with them.

UPDATE: MRW posted his really cool posters:

Very cool. I like them, MRW!


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  1. This is the best thing ever, and thanks for the shout-out to my cyanide article! I kind of want a T-shirt version to wear to Berkeley town meetings. (Yeah…ban GMOs!…all organic all the time! Oh hey, did you know that 100% organic spring mix you’ve got there is full of 100% organic but mildly toxic common groundsel? Looks like dandelion right? Oops. Learn about your food. Don’t just latch on to an arbitrary keyword).

    Comment by aewills — May 16, 2012 #

  2. I like the first one too, and use a similar ingredient list for a mango in my “chemistry for fashion majors” gen-ed class. It is highly provocative.

    One caution: People tend to assume that those “ingredients” are added by people, not naturally occurring. This is even *after* you tell them. They also think that those naturally occurring chemicals are actually a result from foods being GMO. It really is an uphill battle, but a series of accurate listings of the ingredients of natural foods would be really fun.

    I don’t think that the organic structures stick in people’s minds. It is impossible to tell from the structure (or the name really) if a molecule is dangerous.

    On the last one, it might be useful to show the plasticizer molecule for the reformulated plastic.

    One of the concepts I try to convey is that the body handles low-levels of toxins easily and that it is better at handling many low-concentration toxins than a single high-level toxin. (I’m not sure they get it.) But it’s an important aspect of why natural foods that contain many natural low concentration toxins are actually safe. Trying to convince someone of a threshold dose is very difficult in a world where people are still allowed to sell homeopathic remedies.

    Comment by David — May 16, 2012 #

  3. Thanks for showing my poster. Negative posters are a good idea too however your text is a bit schoolteachery and preachy if you know what I mean. You’d need a snappy slogan. What about ‘100% organic, 100% poison’? Anyway, I got that apple off Google images, so don’t use it for real.

    Comment by Klaas Wynne — May 16, 2012 #

  4. David, I think the plasticizer in the BPA-free plastics is proprietary. That’s part of my point: who knows what’s in it?!?

    And as far as structures, I think that poster of all the structures of the compounds that make up an apple would make people realize that chemicals, even though they looks scary, aren’t always bad.

    Comment by sam — May 16, 2012 #

  5. While I agree with the ideas, I am not so sure about the effectiveness of “going negative” with an ad campaign. Would the ACS really want to spend dollars questioning the alternative to BPA? It sounds like something that Alcoa might find effective.

    Comment by Paul — May 16, 2012 #

  6. Sam, I like these. I think the apple one could be improved slightly if you didn’t repeat love chemicals on the side. You could make the love on the top green and then on the side start with eat chemicals. Just a thought

    Comment by Isaac — May 17, 2012 #

  7. My shot: here

    Comment by MRW — May 17, 2012 #

  8. […] some science without the […]

    Pingback by We love … eat … live chemicals | — May 18, 2012 #

  9. […] has some nice posters right now that I’ve also copied here.  Just because it’s natural doesn’t mean it’s safe, and vice versa. […]

    Pingback by Chemicals – So good, and so good for you! | All Things, and Nothing At All — May 18, 2012 #

  10. […] did so too, see here. It took about 15 minutes so it’s a bit rough. The poster was re-blogged here, which is great. However, then that was re-blogged like 200 times, which is crazy. I wish my […]

    Pingback by UCP Wynne group » We love chemistry poster — May 21, 2012 #

  11. […] I warned against this when the BPA kerfuffle emerged. Many people started to get concerned about bisphenol A, which is a monomer for polycarbonate used in many plastic bottles. Some BPA can leach from the plastic into food or liquids, and there has been some evidence that it may mimic hormones in the human body and may have negative health effects especially in children. So everyone started banning BPA bottles and switching to other materials. The main alternative is “BPA-free” plastics. When this happened, I asked, “But what are those plastics made of??” […]

    Pingback by Everyday Scientist » the precautionary principle is flawed — October 1, 2012 #

  12. Love your ‘Food is Chemicals’ pictures. I work in cosmetics retail and I have a degree in science. It really grinds my gears when customers come in and ask me if our products contain chemicals. I am always compelled to say “Well yes, of course they do”…

    Comment by Gloria — June 2, 2013 #

  13. I would love to eat an apple, but not all the chemicals purified, each from a container from the lab. Take a spoon of this and that, and it equals an apple? And as for toxins, we are far from understanding how toxins at low doses, combined in coctails effect us and all living organisms. Classical toxocology did measurement on one chemical at a time, and the dose-response curves need to be reevaluated, as they don’t take into account possible synergistic effects with cocktails. Hormone like chemicals are potent at very low doses and a higher dose might be less or even not harmful for developing unborns. It’s not black and white!!

    Comment by Annika Källman — June 13, 2013 #

  14. Annika, I think you misunderstand. No one is saying that you should just eat spoonfuls of purified chemicals. Just that everything is made of chemicals, so there’s no such thing as “chemical-free” food.

    Comment by sam — June 13, 2013 #

  15. This may interest those of you who created these graphics:

    Come up with a fun and creative video to enhance awareness of vaccination, improve acceptance of vaccination, and communicate its importance, and you can win a trip to Brussels, prestige and other stuff.

    Comment by Angus Thomson — June 18, 2013 #

  16. This is absolutely brilliant! If you add information about the toxicity of these “chemicals” or describe how they are used in other places or how they can be synthesized they get even scarier.

    For example, Nicotinamide is toxic in doses over 3g/day. Of course, you don’t explain how much Nicotinamide is in an apple or how many apples you need to eat to have any effect at all.

    Palmitic Acid is widely used in the cosmetics industry. That’s a trigger word these scaredy cats always react to. Everything used in the cosmetics industry is dangerous.

    You can synthesize oleic acid by taking discarded slaughterhouse waste products (fat or tallow) and mix those with calcium oxide, magnesium oxide or zinc oxide and then prepare it in different ways. Ooooh scary!

    Comment by Steven — August 21, 2013 #

  17. It’s unfortunate how popular it is to equate “natural” with healthy and to be afraid of “chemicals” when literally everything is made of them.

    Comment by Chemical Man — October 3, 2014 #

  18. […] Ein lustiges Bild zu dem Thema Chemicals habe ich im Netz gefunden: We love chemicals […]

    Pingback by E-Zigaretten: Viele Chemikalien, aber etwas weniger schädlich - DampfFreiheit — May 12, 2015 #

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