A widespread disorder affecting a staggering number of citizens in developed countries, including the U.S., has recently been brought into the spotlight. This syndrome, which can be classified as an anxiety disorder in extreme cases, appears to be contagious. Jon Entine, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a former producer at NBC News and ABC News, asserts that the disorder poses a real risk to public health. “[This] epidemic keeps gaining momentum,” says Entine. The American Council on Science and Health is working on a cure, but they can’t succeed without the efforts of many more scientists.
Could you be affected by this anxiety disorder? If you answer yes to one or more of the following questions, you may be at risk:
(a) Do you think the word cation should be pronounced “kay-shun”?
(b) Do you think we should step up the efforts to ban dihydrogen monoxide from our rivers and lakes?
(c) Do you think the term organic pesticide is an oxymoron?
(d) Do you think 1,3,7-trimethyl-1H-purine-2,6(3H,7H)-dione is unsafe to consume?
The disorder, labelled chemophobia, is characterized by an irrational fear of certain words and substances. Common fear triggers include the following:
• The string of consonants “phth”
• Numbers being used as part of a name
• Words ending in “ide”, particularly when preceded by 3 or more syllables
• The prefix “trans-”
A person with this anxiety disorder has the ability to infect others who are susceptible. In particular, affected persons involved with the news media can propagate the epidemic with sensational language and misleading headlinesnot unlike the present article. The use of the word chemical as an implied synonym for “poison” or “poisonous” seems to be especially detrimental. Examples include the following:
At present, there is no proven cure for chemophobia. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that persons who wear safety glasses and nitrile gloves on a day-to-day basis are less likely to display symptoms of this disorder.
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