Why are people afraid of chemicals?

Nature would not exist without chemicals. In recent years, however, consumers have become suspicious of all things artificial or chemical, leading to an explosion in claims about the benefits of “organic,” “natural,” and “pure” foods and products. Where did these fears originate? How should we address them? Does marketing drive chemophobia or does science back up our fears? While we may be right to be concerned about what’s in our food, products, and environment, we may be surprised about where the real dangers lie.

This UBC Dialogues was recorded November 17, 2016, at the Coast Capri Hotel in Kelowna, BC.


Marion Barschel – Producer, CBC’s Daybreak


Steve McNeil, BSc’91, PhD’96 – Associate Professor, Chemistry
Susan Murch, PhD – Professor and Canada Research Chair, Chemistry
Blythe Nilson, MSc – Associate Professor, Biology; National Science Chair, Centre for Inquiry Canada
Anna Warwick Sears, PhD – Executive Director, Okanagan Basin Water Board
Glenys Webster, BMus’95, BSc’00, PhD’11 – CIHR Postdoctoral Fellow, Faculty of Health Sciences, Simon Fraser University, and BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute