Chemical-Free Chemistry

The other day my friends at JAYFK  posted a story about an innovative new idea in chemistry sets for young science students.

Yes, folks, the idea is that young scholars should learn about the science of chemistry through doing, um, experiments that are, um, chemical free.

I’ve been puzzling over this idea. How would a budding chemist do these “chemical free” experiments when everything in the box from plastic to paper is made of chemical compounds?  One could imagine that these small scientists  might put water in the plastic test tubes pictured below.  But, no, that would be H2O. Another known chemical compound.

Photo courtesy of JAYFK

As the folks at JAYFK note, I’ve been writing – some might say ranting – about the use of the phrase chemical-free  for some time now. I even proposed that since this is the International Year of Chemistry, we declare a ban on the phrase declare an official ban on phrase “chemical free.”

Yes, it’s an advertising phrase, yes, it theoretically indicates a product free of industrial chemicals. But it doesn’t just sell organic grapefruit. It sells the idea that all chemicals are evil and it sells the idea, apparently, that one can label a chemistry set as full of “chemical-free” options.

And it absolutely deserves its star billing in JAYFK. If you wonder why I say that, just visit there. Chemical-free chemistry could not be turn up in a more appropriately titled publication.

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12 Responses to Chemical-Free Chemistry

  1. I am sure a lot of comments will be about the fond memories of childhood chemistry sets in the 50’s, before the hysteria. I still remember the magic of the beautiful colors in my test tubes, all the fizzing, the stinks, the heat, the cold, the flames, solids turning liquid, liquids turning solid, and the hot pink of my experiments with phenolphthalein. I knew what it was, how to spell it and say it when I was 8. And never forgot. I feel sorry for kids today, locked into insipid worlds of “safe” virtual reality, removed from authentic experience by a game control.

  2. Bob says:

    That’s it. I’m designing and marketing “Baby’s First Gunpowder Factory.” Investors?


  3. Dave says:

    Now would be great time to sell an organic chemistry set. “Contains only organic chemicals!”.

  4. Alas, with a few notable exceptions, the inorganic chemists get all the nice colours. I fear that an organic chemistry set would consist mostly of “Behold! Slightly yellow crystals!”

    A cruelty-free chemistry set, on the other hand, might be a winner. No animals were harmed in the making of this set :-)

  5. Deborah Blum says:

    Oh. agreed. I had fantastic fun with my chemistry set. Of course, I did design a few of my own experiments, one of which required me to, you know, use my mother’s perfume for its alcohol contact. Not a happy day in the Blum family.

  6. marsh says:

    Before using the chemical-free chemistry set, sing chemical safety youtube tune – The HAZCOM Song

  7. Pingback: Chemical Free Chemistry Kit | Philosophically Disturbed

  8. I am somewhat confused by your use of the word “organic”. My understanding is that any compound with a carbon molecule was “organic”; whether naturally occurring or synthetically produced. If that is so then every chemistry set is an organic chemistry set. Right?

  9. Pingback: The Chemical-Free Chemistry Kit | JetLib News

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