The hidden side of clinical trials

Watch the AllTrials TEDx talk on YouTube

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Evidence matters to the public

Join us on 1st November at Parliament to make the case

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Plant Science Panel

Insecticides, biofuels, GMOs …

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'The Ugly Truth'

by Tracey Brown, director of Sense About Science

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Making Sense of Chemical Stories

Leading scientists, toxicologists and dieticians debunk common chemical misconceptions

Making Sense of Chemical Stories

People are still being misled by chemical myths. This needs to stop. We urge everyone to stop repeating misconceptions about chemicals. The presence of a chemical isn’t a reason for alarm. The effect of a chemical depends on the dose.

In lifestyle commentary, chemicals are presented as something that can be avoided, or eliminated using special socks, soaps or diets, and that cause only harm to health and damage to the environment.

This guide flags up the more serious misconceptions that exist around chemicals and suggests straightforward ways for people to evaluate them.

The reality boils down to six points:

  1. You can’t lead a chemical-free life.
  2. Natural isn’t always good for you and man-made chemicals are not inherently dangerous.
  3. Synthetic chemicals are not causing many cancers and other diseases.
  4. ‘Detox’ is a marketing myth.
  5. We need man-made chemicals.
  6. We are not just subjects in an unregulated, uncontrolled environment, there are checks in place.


The Guardian - 'Notes and Theories' blog Man-made or natural, tasty or toxic, they're all chemicals

The Conversation - Five myths about the chemical you eat, breathe and drink, this article was also covered in Lifehacker, Business Insider and Real Clear Science and IFLS

Cosmopolitan UK - Are detoxes a load of b*llocks? 

The Daily Mail - Detox diets a waste of time and money

The Daily Mirror - Beware of toxic fad detox diets

Compound Interest - Natural Vs Man-Made Chemicals: Dispelling Misconceptions

Breast Cancer Campaign - Chemicals, deodorants and breast cancer: making sense of it all

American Chemistry Council blog - 6 Chemical Myths Debunked

Chemistry World Blog - Making Sense of Chemical Stories

Frog Heart - Good chemicals, bad chemicals, everything is chemical: the cry of the lonely chemist

CAMcheckMaking Sense of Chemical Stories

The Daily Express - Fergus Kelly commentary

The Daily Mail - The Detox Delusion

Chemist by Choice - Making Sense of Chemicals: Chemical Misinformation

Chemistry Blog - Making Sense of Chemical Stories

Biomonitoring Info  - Manual provides context for understanding chemicals


Related Posters

All of our work is freely avaiable - please feel free to download and print the posters and send us a picture of them up on your walls.

Schools across the UK requested the posters for their classrooms, corridors and common rooms. You can help fund the printing and posting of the posters for schools here.

The Dose Makes The Poison by @CompoundChem

This poster is now also available in Spanish with translations by Gabriel Leon

This poster is now also available in South American Spanish with translations by Gabriel Leon

The Dose Makes The Poison 

Natural and Man-Made Chemicals  by @CompoundChem

Natural Vs Man-Made Chemicals

Who says your diet is chemical free? by @Mabonrhun

Chemical free?

The new edition of our guide, Making Sense of Chemical Stories, is published with support from the Royal Society of Chemistry. We published the first edition of 'Making Sense of Chemical Stories' in 2006. As a briefing document for the lifestyle sector, it flagged up the more serious misconceptions about chemicals and suggested straightforward ways for writers and presenters in the lifestyle media to evaluate them. It was intended to open a conversation that promoted a stronger connection between lifestyle commentary and chemical realities. When we first published this guide we had journalists and lifestyle writers in mind, but since then it has been used far more widely: by helpline workers, midwives, GPs and many others who deal with the questions people have about chemicals; as well as people with questions getting in touch themselves. This led us to launch the new edition of the guide.

In 2009 we also published the 'Detox Dossier' with our Voice of Young Science network. In the dossier, early career scientists hunted for the evidence behind detox claims made for products and diets, and began a campaign to alert the public.


This guide was first published in 2006. It was reprinted in 2014 with minor changes. Some of the information in the guide may need updating. If you seek to rely on it, please contact us: [email protected]