The bias is heavy in the cosmetics sector but chemicals that are harmful to the body are found in numerous household products like furniture, food packaging and sprays. That being said, not all natural ingredients are free of harmful chemicals, tea tree oil, eucalyptus and rosemary have been found to cause body inflammation in the form of allergic reactions on the skin and elsewhere.
Further still, some products contain a combination of natural and synthetic ingredients. However, some chemicals are manipulated to replicate natural ingredients and the modification procedure of sourcing and processing affect the end product. Therefore, the ability to tell which product is natural from a synthetic one is compromised.
Behind the scenes
The United States of America, Britain and the European Union all have the same standard of regulatory requirements for both natural and synthetic ingredients.
If the aspect of climate change is factored in, it is a wonder why consumers reflexively choose natural products and not synthetic products that allegedly do not take as much a toll on the environment. This could explain the rampant use of the word natural to assuage the value-instinct to choose natural, and perhaps protect the environment with a white lie, while packaging synthetic products.
Synthetics manufacturers argue that developing alternative chemicals in labs is more financially viable and does not pose limitations such as scarce natural resources and human ethics. For example, a biotech company identified as Amyris is developing a synthetic alternative, to a natural oil called Squalene found in Shark liver and used in deodorants , from sugar cane.
“The latest advances in biotechnology enable us to meet the growing demand for clean, sustainable ingredients not by depleting scarce natural resources, but through the creation of bio-identical ingredients through clean chemistry. The most powerful driver for this transition [to greener chemistry solutions] is the consumer. Today’s consumers are looking for products made with ingredients that are safer, more sustainable, ethically sourced and don’t compromise on performance,” says Rytokoski President of Amyris.
The devil and the deep blue sea
Unfortunately, producing synthetic chemicals from fossil fuels is energy-intensive which leads to creation of large amounts of waste and toxins that escalate the climate problem.
It appears that which ever path is taken, the consequences are unavoidable but the gradual depletion of natural resources that are regenerative seems to be the lesser evil in this struggle to satisfy a big demographic.
Thus the resistance against synthetics might push manufacturers to exploit the word to justify gain through environment preservation. Even then, the likelihood of unknowingly having used synthetics in the past without side effects, or at least adverse ones, could mean that they could be a viable option.
The real agenda
Coupled with the mind/emotional wellness movement, which is championing a purely intellectual and emotional manipulation of experience, the consumer might be falling in a trap of pure mind in a material world.
The question remains, how and when will the consumer be sure to make informed decisions instead of being manipulated?