Why we desperately need chemical literacy

Read the full story in GreenBiz.

A recent Pew Research Center survey of Americans revealed that our grasp of basic scientific concepts varies significantly depending on the topic. For instance, according to the survey, around eight of 10 Americans know that sunscreen provides protection against ultraviolet radiation. Yet the survey also revealed that only two of 10 people could accurately identify nitrogen as the main ingredient in the Earth’s atmosphere.

The Pew survey did not include a question about general knowledge of chemicals in products. If it had, we might have gained some useful perspective on what drives some companies to market their products as “chemical-free.” A quick Web search using this keyword presents dozens of products. Sunscreen, makeup, household cleaners and foods are all products about which consumers’ concern about harmful chemicals is increasingly acute. Yet these products marketed as “chemical-free” contain ingredients that are, like all things, chemicals.

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