Comment »Posted on Monday 29 September 2008 at 2:05 pm by Jacob Aron
In Chemistry, Climate Change & Environment

It’s quite possible you already have significant amounts of dihydrogen monoxide (DHMO) inside you. According to the Dihydrogen Monoxide Research Division in Newark, Delaware, this chemical has many industrial applications, and can easily enter the body. Indeed, it is often unintentionally ingested as it is found in many different food substances. It’s even used by terrorist organizations such as al-Quaeda.

This colourless and odourless substance is most often found in liquid form (large quantities have been reported in the world’s oceans, affecting the indigenous sea life), and can cause death if inhaled, although liquid DHMO is inert to human skin. Prolonged contact with DHMO in either a solid or gaseous state, however, can also lead to death.

There is also strong evidence to show that DHMO strongly contributes to climate change – indeed, some weather configurations can lead to sudden localised deposits of the liquid chemical.

A survey by US researchers Patrick K. McCluskey and Matthew Kulick found that nearly 90% of participants would sign a petition supporting an outright ban on the use of DHMO in the United States. Studies carried out elsewhere seem to agree with these findings; the majority of public citizens want to see an end to DHMO, but world leaders refuse to act. Continue reading for my suggested action to combat the spread of DHMO.

This pipeline has been contaminated by DHMO.

Well, you should probably just do nothing. Dihydrogen monoxide, more commonly known as H2O, or ‘water’ can be extremely dangerous if misused – it’s easy to burn your self in boiling water, for example – but I don’t think we need to worry about it.

I wrote this post because I myself was caught out by this oldy-but-goody science prank recently – the latest issue of New Scientist mentions it in the Feedback column. I read along going ‘oh, it’s already in my blood steam, really’ and ‘well I haven’t heard of this but it sounds pretty bad’, until finally, the penny dropped.

It’s a classic (albeit harmless) example of intentionally using science to confuse and miscommunicate. Leading the post with a headline highlighting the ‘risk’ to yourself or loved ones, mentioning terrorists/climate change and talking about the outrageous lack of political action are all designed to whip you up into a fury: ‘something must be done!’ you cry. No wonder so many people get swept along by scare stories such as the link between the MMR vaccine and autism; it’s just all too easy. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go sweep my kitchen for traces of sodium chloride – did you know that in large doses, it can lead to heart disease?


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