These words make me cringe. It’s not that I oppose them a priori, rather, I hate the way they have come be used…and overused!
Natural: So many people have the idea that if something is natural, it must be good for you and it cannot possibly be harmful. Food product labels boast, “All Natural!” and many people are taken in, thinking that they are making a healthy choice, which may or may not be true. In fact, “all natural” means nothing in terms of a food’s nutritional content, nor does it mean that the product is safe or will benefit you in any way. To illustrate my point, here’s a list of things that are natural:
- Poison ivy
- Poison oak
- Deadly nightshade
- Botulinum toxin
- Great white sharks
- Swarms of bees
See my point?
Chemical: “Oh, I don’t eat anything with chemicals in it!” I’ve heard this proclaimed numerous times, and it is, of course, nonsense because if it were true, the person would not be alive to make such a ridiculous claim. In fact, a chemical substance is simply one that cannot be broken into its individual components by physical means (that is, without breaking chemical bonds). For example, water cannot by broken down by physical means. No amount of splashing or swirling will break water into its components of hydrogen and oxygen. On the other hand, running a direct current through it (ie, electrolysis) can make this happen. So, what I’m saying here is water is a chemical.
I understand that when people use the word chemicals in the context I have cited above, what they usually mean is something that is not natural. Of course, you know by now that natural means next to nothing.
Toxin: Lately, when I hear people use the word toxin, I automatically assume they don’t know what they are talking about and/or they are trying to sell me something. “Oh, this _________ (cleanse, diet, exercise, gimmicky shake, etc) helps rid the body of toxins!” What toxins? How? Give me specifics or stop talking.
Technically defined, toxin refers to a poisonous substance produced within living organisms. OMG, that means toxins are natural! Using a more nontechnical definition, toxin refers to any substance that can cause damage to an organism. So, pretty much anything can be toxic in large enough quantities. Ever hear of water intoxication?
Holy cow, water is a chemical and can be toxic! It’s a bad day for dihydrogen monoxide.