Chemicals in our Life
What does the word "chemicals" conjure up in the minds of ordinary people? Well, a search of images on the internet that are about chemicals gives a hint – lots of test tubes and experimental flasks and "hazard" signs like the skull and crossbones. Time and again research shows that the public see chemicals as potentially dangerous things. Research even goes so far as to say that our citizens try to exclude chemicals from their lives. Given the choice between a product containing "chemicals" or one containing "natural" ingredients, many people say they would go for the natural one – a fact that is not lost on the marketing industry.
Of course the reality is that life itself would not exist without chemicals – we are made of chemicals as is the earth beneath our feet. Furthermore, some of the most dangerous chemicals known to man are naturally occurring ones, like arsenic and belladonna.
The truth is that, as Margot Wallstrom said (former Vice President of the European Commission and one of the architects of the REACH legislation which aims to make the use of chemicals safer) "chemicals are a blessing and a curse".
Are they safe?
This is an impossible question to answer simply! The real answer is that it depends on the chemical and how much of it you are exposed to. Even water is dangerous if you drink too much of it in one go.
Use chemicals safely at work
The safe use of chemicals in your workplace is essential for your health and wellbeing. The EU laws on chemicals, known as REACH, CLP and the Biocidal Products regulations, can help.
Animal testing under REACH
REACH strikes a balance between the need of information to increase our understanding of the hazards of chemical substances, and the aim of avoiding unnecessary testing on animals.
So what should I do?
Firstly, don't be afraid of chemicals – you are made of them, and you need them.
Secondly, treat them with respect. Look at the packaging of products you buy and read the labels. See if there are safety instructions that you should follow. Take those instructions seriously. They are there for your safety.