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Better living from chemicals

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I feel compelled to comment on a letter to the editor published in the Deseret News Monday, July 17.

In "Fluoride is not the answer," Judy Guymon opines on the current debate of fluoride addition to the drinking water supply. One statement in her letter disturbs me: "Chemicals hurt far more than they do good." This sort of comment exposes a serious ignorance about the role of chemicals in our daily lives, reflecting a growing "chemophobia" among many people.

This attitude was addressed in an article by Paul Walter, the 1998 American Chemical Society President, which I use as a source for the following examples.

Chemistry has done more to reduce the death rate and improve the quality of life than has any other profession.

How has life expectancy in the United States increased 50 percent between 1920 and 1990? Much of that increase is due to

the discoveries of chemists and to the products of the chemical and pharmaceutical industries.

How is the raw water from mountain run-off or groundwater sources purified? Chemicals are used to remove particles and harmful organisms. Chlorine disinfection of water has virtually eliminated cholera and dysentery in this country (and makes the various water parks in the area viable).

How do farmers feed the world? By using fungicides and artificial fertilizers. (The trend toward "chemical-free" produce begs the question: Is a carrot grown in animal waste, a stew of E. coli and other microorganisms, healthier than one grown with manufactured ammonia derivatives?)

How do homes and businesses stay comfortable during the summer? The chemicals used in air-conditioners and other refrigerants free us from daily shopping, minimize food spoilage and facilitate productive settlements in warm climates.

Sure, there are risks. But for every thalidomide, there are literally thousands of nylons, polyurethanes, fertilizers and methyldopas clothing us, housing us, feeding us and curing us.

Scott Catron