Science 101 | natural vs synthetic chemicals | part 3

Science 101 | natural vs synthetic chemicals | part 3

There is no difference between “natural” and “synthetic” versions of a chemical.

I often hear people claim that “synthetic” chemicals (a.k.a. chemicals made in a lab) are not as good for you as their “natural” counterparts. The reality is that this represents a misunderstanding of literally the most fundamental concept of chemistry.

The most basic unit of matter is the atom (again, excluding subatomic particles), and there are several different types of atoms known as elements. We combine these elements to make various molecules, and the combination of elements determines the molecule’s properties. The process by which those elements were combined is completely and totally irrelevant to how the final chemical behaves.

Doesn’t hold water

For example, water (a.k.a. dihydrogen monoxide) consists of three atoms: 2 hydrogens and 1 oxygen (hydrogen and oxygen are both elements). There are literally thousands of different chemical reactions that will produce water. In other words, we can make water thousands of different ways, but water always behaves in exactly the same way no matter how it was formed because it always consists of the same three atoms.

Further, if given a vial of pure water, there isn’t a chemist anywhere in the world who could tell you how that water was produced because it would be completely identical to all of the other water everywhere on the planet. So, as long as the chemical structure is the same, it doesn’t matter if the chemical was extracted from a plant or synthesized in a lab.

Part 3 of the  wonderful article 5 simple chemistry facts that everyone should understand before talking about science by The Logic of Science website – posted on May 27, 2015. Find the original article here.

Content and images courtesy of The Science of Logic website.

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