Posted in Science & Nature

Dihydrogen Monoxide

Many people know about the dangers of chemicals such as lead and dioxin, but there is lack of awareness of an even bigger killed chemical: dihydrogen monoxide. It is a colourless, odourless, tasteless chemical that is responsible for the death of hundreds of thousands of people around the world.

Most deaths caused by dihydrogen monoxide (DHMO) are by accidental inhalation, causing cerebral hypoxia. However, the dangers of DHMO do not end there. Its solid form can cause severe tissue damage after prolonged exposure, and both its gas and liquid forms can cause severe burns. It is possible to overdose on DHMO, with symptoms ranging from excessive diaphoresis and micturition, bloating, nausea, vomiting and body electrolyte imbalance such as hyponatraemia. For those who are dependent on it, withdrawal means certain death. DHMO has also been found in various types of tumours biopsied from terminal cancer patients.

Not only does DHMO have consequences on human health, it is also damaging for the environment. DHMO is the leading cause of the greenhouse effect (surpassing carbon dioxide), a key component of acid rain, accelerated corrosion and rusting of many metals and contributes to the erosion of natural landscapes. DHMO contamination is a real, global issue, with DHMO being detected in lakes, streams and reservoirs across the globe. DHMO has caused trillions of dollars of property damage in almost every country, especially in developing nations.

Despite the danger, DHMO is commonly found in the household, in the form of additives in food and drinks, cleaning products and even styrofoam. There are no regulation laws for DHMO and multi-national companies continue to dump waste DHMO into rivers and the ocean. It is astounding to see such a deadly chemical go unregulated.

If you have not caught on by now, dihydrogen monoxide’s chemical formula is H2O – also known as water. Technically speaking, there are no false statements in the above description. But even children know that water is not only (relatively) safe, but necessary for life. The report on “dihydrogen monoxide” originates from a 1997 science fair project by Nathan Zohner, who was 14 years old at the time. His project was titled “How Gullible Are We?” and involved presenting his report about “the dangers of DHMO” to fifty school students to see what their reaction would be. 43 students favoured banning it, 6 were undecided and only one recognised that DHMO was actually water. Even more surprising is that there are cases (such as in California in 2004), where city officials came close to banning the substance, falling for the hoax. This goes to show how gullible people can be in the face of what they do not know.

Posted in Psychology & Medicine


Occasionally, there are news stories about a man who eats steel or a girl who likes to eat plastic. Such a condition where the person develops an appetite for a non-food substance is called pica. Pica is more common than one would think. The most common cases are those of dirt, clay and chalk, with the disorder being much more prevalent in children or pregnant women. Although pica is officially a mental disorder (possibly related to OCD), it is possible that it is a neurological mechanism to cure a certain mineral deficiency. For example, patients with coeliac diseases or hookworm infections tend to be iron-deficient and the substances they eat tend to contain iron. It is unclear how the brain knows what “food” to eat to cure a disease, but there are many cases where people subconsciously consume foods that would improve their health. According to a study, between 8% and 65% of people have had a sudden urge for a very strange appetite. However, as substances commonly involved in pica (such as dirt and ice) are solids, they can damage the oesophagus and the digestive tract. Also, they may contain toxic chemicals which can cause poisonings, making pica a potentially dangerous condition.

Posted in Science & Nature

Badass Weapons Of Nature: Carpenter Ant

There is an extreme number of ant species, each with a unique characteristic. In the case of carpenter ants, they are famous for their strange defence mechanism.

Some species of carpenter ants, such as the Camponotus saundersi, have warrior ants with very large mandibular glands (many times greater than normal ants). When in a battle it judges that it has no chance of winning, the ant rapidly contracts its abdominal muscles to build pressure. When sufficient pressure is reached within the mandibular glands, it explodes violently, shattering the ant in the process. The glands are filled with a sticky, toxic fluid, which is spread all around where the ant used to be, ensnaring the foes. The inflicted enemies are killed by the poison. 
This is the reason why they are sometimes referred to as exploding ants.

It is a bold, yet fearsome sacrifice for the greater good.

Posted in Science & Nature


The most potent and frequently used household cleaning product is bleach. Bleach is a diluted solution of sodium hypochlorite (NaClO), which has powerful antimicrobial properties thanks to the element chlorine. This is also the reason chlorine is used to treat tap water and disinfect pools.

Although it is an extremely useful chemical, chlorine also has a very dark side. Chlorine gas is a highly toxic gas, which forms hydrochloric acid when breathed in and seriously burns the respiratory tract. Due to its toxicity, chlorine gas was used as a weapon of mass destruction in World War I. However, this terrifying gas can be made very simply at home. Unfortunately, this is often done accidentally (but sometimes on purpose) and causes significant damage.

The key warning for using bleach is that it must never be mixed with other cleaning products. If mixed with an acid cleaner, it causes a chemical reaction that produces chlorine gas, while mixing it with ammonia creates chloramine, another deadly gas (although dangerous in itself, chloramine can sublimate into chlorine gas too). Therefore, many people suffer a loss of smell, consciousness or their lives by accidentally mixing two cleaning products or cleaning up urine with bleach. A major problem is that these victims tend to be children who unknowingly mix the chemicals, creating a horrible accident. What is more unfortunate is that some people choose to end their lives using this method.
If you do find a person rendered unconscious by chlorine, it is imperative to quickly move them to a well-ventilated area, while not endangering yourself. An ambulance should be called right away.

As seen from above, simple chemicals found easily at home can produce toxic gases, which can cause irreversible damage. Thus, one must never mix bleach and cleaning products and should educate their children on the dangers of chlorine gas.