Chemistry in daily life

Chemistry in daily life

The principles of chemistry have been used for the benefit of mankind. Think of cleanliness  the materials like soaps, detergents, household bleaches, tooth pastes, etc. will come to our mind. Look towards the beautiful clothes, immediately chemicals of the synthetic fibres used for making clothes and chemicals giving colours to them will come to our mind.

Chemistry and food

Chemicals are essential building blocks for everything in the world. All living matter, including people, animals and plants, consists of chemicals. All food is made up of chemical substances. Chemicals in food are largely harmless and often desirable – for example, nutrients such as carbohydrates, protein, fat and fibre are composed of chemical compounds. Many of these occur naturally and contribute both to a rounded diet and to our eating experience.

Some plants and fungi naturally produce toxins that can contaminate crops and be a concern for human and animal health. People can also be exposed to both naturally occurring and man-made chemical compounds present at various levels in the environment, e.g. in soil, water and the atmosphere. Examples include industrial pollutants such as dioxins and PCBs. A variety of metals can be present naturally in the environment or as a result of human activity.

All foods, living matter and, indeed, our bodies themselves are made up of chemicals. Many of the chemicals found in food occur naturally and include nutrients such as carbohydrates, protein, fat, fibre and a host of other elements and compounds.  Chemical substances can play an important role in food production and preservation. Food additives can, for example, prolong the shelf life of foods or can make food more attractive, such as colours. Flavourings are used to make food tastier.

Food packaging materials and containers such as bottles, cups and plates contain chemical substances such as plastic, elements of which can migrate into food. Other chemicals can be used to fight diseases in farm animals or crops.  All chemical substances authorised for use in foods must first undergo a thorough risk assessment to ensure that they are safe. The possible effect of such chemicals on our health and safety depends on our level of exposure to them, for instance through the foods we eat or other sources of environmental exposure. That is why regulatory bodies carry out strict risk assessments of all chemicals proposed for use in food to determine which substances can be used and at which levels. This ensures that the use of chemicals in foods or on crops (for instance, pesticides) will not have adverse effects on animal and human health, and on the environment.

Chemistry in personal care products

Cosmetics are substances used to enhance the appearance or odor of the human body. A subset of cosmetics is called “make-up“, which refers to products intended to change the user‟s appearance.There are still health concerns regarding the presence of harmful chemicals within these products.

  • Lipsticks and lip balm contain oils, beeswax and perfumes. These protect, soften and brighten the lips.
  • Mascaras have a composition based on a volatile solvent, beeswax, pigments (iron oxide) and filmifying polymers.
  • Nail polish is made of lacquer, and consists of polymers, solvents, plasticisers, colourants, and perfumes.

Preservatives are important ingredients. They are added to cosmetics to extend their shelf life and prevent the growth of microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi, which can spoil the product and possibly harm the user. Since most microbes live in water, the preservatives used need to be water-soluble, and this helps to determine which ones are used. Preservatives used in cosmetics can be natural or synthetic (man-made), and perform differently depending on the formulation of the product. Some will require low levels of around 0.01%, while other will require levels as high as 5%.

Chemistry and Medicines

Drugs are chemicals of low molecular masses (~100 – 500u). These interact with macromolecular targets and produce a biological response. When the biological response is therapeutic and useful, these chemicals are called medicines and are used in diagnosis, prevention and treatment of diseases. If taken in doses higher than those recommended, most of the drugs used as medicines are potential poisons.

Tranquilizers and analgesics are neurologically active drugs. These affect the message transfer mechanism from nerve to receptor. Tranquilizers are a class of chemical compounds used for the treatment of stress, and mild or even severe mental diseases. These relieve anxiety, stress, irritability or excitement by inducing a sense of well-being.

Analgesics reduce or abolish pain without causing impairment of consciousness, mental confusion, incoordination or paralysis or some other disturbances of nervous system. These are classified as follows:

  • Non-narcotic (non-addictive) analgesics
  • Narcotic drugs

Antibiotics are used as drugs to treat infections because of their low toxicity for humans and animals. Initially antibiotics were classified as chemical substances produced by microorganisms (bacteria, fungi and molds) that inhibit the growth or even destroy microorganisms. The development of synthetic methods has helped in synthesising some of the compounds that were originally discovered as products of microorganisms.

Antiseptics are applied to the living tissues such as wounds, cuts, ulcers and diseased skin surfaces. Examples are furacine, soframicine, etc. These are not ingested like antibiotics. Commonly used antiseptic, dettol is a mixture of chloroxylenol and terpineol.

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