A few days ago, @JenLucPiquant mentioned this:
The link provided took people to a Chemical Free Chemistry Kit and by the time I saw this, the folks over at the Journal of Are You F***ing Kidding Me had immortalised the chemical free chemistry kit in an eloquent angry blog post.
It could be said that the post is being pedantic because what the manufacturer is wanting to produce a chemistry kit that would be safe to use in the home as the website states:
60 + fun activities with home science and kitchen chemistry. Investigate with safe and simple materials – discover basic scientific laws and phenomena.
Grow crystals; Chromatograohy; Optics; Growing Plants; Slime and Gook; Science Tricks;3 Dimensional Bubbles and more!
Quite reasonable especially if parents can’t remember the finer points of chemistry to deal with any mishaps. There is one problem with this though. This is a Chemistry Kit and it does not make any sense to have it labelled chemical free. Never mind that there is no such thing as chemical free. All the items in the kit are made from some sort of chemical and judging by the photo, they are made predominantly from petrochemicals given the plastic nature of the equipment. The bubble solution has at least water in it as well as a detergent and other chemicals in solution.
This is a Chemistry Kit and it should not be adding to the confusion of what is and isn’t a chemical. The advertising phrase “chemical free” is one that suggests industrial chemicals are harmful. This isn’t even close to the truth. Don’t believe me? Take a look in the medicine cabinet in your home. Yes, you can overdose on them and cause yourself harm but if taken correctly at the right doses, they alleviate your ailments do they not? And if not, stop reading this blog post and go make an appointment with a doctor.
As @deborahblum states, this isn’t selling organic grapefruit. This is a Chemistry Kit that is designed to educate children of 10 years of age and up on introductory chemistry. How can you do this with no chemicals? The kit claims to introduce users to chromatography, optics, growing plants, slime and gook, bubbles and many more ideas. All these things involve chemistry. I don’t know how anyone can perform chromatography, (a process to separate mixtures), without any chemicals. Growing plants involves using water, (a chemical), and the nutrients in the soil which are chemicals. And slime, well I covered that a couple days ago, and that definitely involves chemicals found around the home. One of them is even edible.
You just have to wonder what was going through the minds of the marketers of this chemistry kit. It is something that is aiming to teach children chemistry and that means chemicals. Nothing we interact with is chemical free. Nothing. It is time to stop using the phrase chemical free especially in education. It is misleading and adds confusion to a much maligned subject.
- The Chemical-Free Chemistry Kit (news.slashdot.org)
- Chemistry kit with no chemicals (boingboing.net)
- Chemistry 60: The Chemistry Set Without Chemicals (crunchgear.com)
- Now With Less (Literally Zero) Chemicals: The World’s Crappiest Kids’ Chemistry Kit (geekologie.com)