Archive for February 17th, 2010


Killing Us All – The Dangers of Dihydrogen Monoxide

February 17, 2010

As we go through life, we come in contact with many compounds.  Few, if any, have as great an effect on every living creature as dihydrogen monoxide.  It is even found in the food we eat, including infant formula and baby food.  Recent studies show that as a vapor, it is a greenhouse gas and a factor in global warming.  Sadly, little is being done to remove this danger from our lives.  In fact, we have intertwined it to the point where doing something about it may be impossible.  Some people ask why even try.

Dihydrogen monoxide (DHMO) is known by several names within the various industries that use it; they include dihydrogen oxide and hydroxyl acid.  That’s part of the problem with the compound, given that different organizations use it by different names and in different physical states, understanding the total impact of the compound proves frustrating for the average citizen.  In an attempt to clarify, here is a partial list of DMHO’s qualities:

  • Contributes to the “greenhouse effect.”
  • One of the major components of acid rain.
  • May cause severe burns.
  • Can be fatal if inhaled.
  • Contributes to the erosion of our natural landscape.
  • Accelerates corrosion and rusting of many metals.
  • Promotes bacterial growth in food.
  • May cause electrical failures and decreased effectiveness of automobile brakes.
  • Has been found in tumors of cancer patients.

Here is a partial list of some common uses of DHMO:

  • Producing industrial solvents
  • Aids in cooling power plants, including nuclear ones.
  • Used in the production of Styrofoam.
  • Used as a component in fire retardants.
  • Animal research.
  • Pesticides.  Even after washing at home, it remains on fruit.
  • Additive in certain “junk-foods” and other food products.

Many industries have developed a “love-hate” relationship with DHMO, electrical power generation for one.  While DHMO is a critical component in some forms of power generation, it is also a major contributor to the failure of power lines, in general, each year adding millions of dollars to our electric bills.

In fairness, there have been several well-organized petition drives and even governments have shown interests in some form of regulation.  DHMO is so engrained, the appetite for taking it on is soon lost when faced with the mountains of data various industries and organizations produce each year.

There is no question DHMO sounds like a really bad compound to have in our lives, but that is just it – it sounds bad.  While nothing presented above is false, it leaves out pertinent data required to make a proper judgment on the compound.  Perhaps by looking at the chemical formula for DHMO, you will begin to understand -H2O.  That’s right; dihydrogen monoxide is simply a chemist’s way of labeling water.

By no means do I claim to be the creator of this hoax, it has been around for years.  Many have used it as an example to illustrate people’s willingness to sign a petition, join a group, or even donate money to a cause they know nothing about.  The comedy team of Penn & Teller even held a petition drive at an environmental awareness rally and gathered pages of signatures.  That fact only reinforces the original purpose of the hoax, to show the ignorance of the general population on scientific matters and their willingness to go along with nearly anything that sounds good.  Before the right-leaning folks out there laugh too loud at the liberal environmentalists being fooled, conservatives also have been as guilty; just ask the town council of Aliso Viejo, California, a Republican stronghold.  In 2004, they tried to ban the use of foam containers at city-sponsored events because dihydrogen monoxide is part of their production.

The point is it is easy to mislead people that refuse to ask questions.  Most anything can be presented in a way that makes it seem harmful or have some other undesirable trait.  That is what we face today with all sorts of movements.  We accept things at face value without understanding what is truly going on.  You only need to look at the debate on global warming for a great example.  On the one side, data is used to show we can pollute the world to no end and nothing will happen.  The other side takes the same data and shows the devil himself created CO2 and we should banish it from the planet.  The problem is neither side shows the whole story and people don’t ask.

The same is true in politics, the Democrats seem to have taken a “trust us, we know what we are doing” approach and movements like the Tea Party give only slanted views on every idea out their while having no ideas of their own.  Meanwhile, the Republicans are still wondering just how they dropped the ball in the first place and ask for another bite at the apple.  What they all have in common is none of them dares tell the whole truth.  They pick and choose specific points rather than form complete ideas that are in everyone’s best interest.

In the end, the story of dihydrogen monoxide is a cautionary tale of what truly will kill us, our lack of understanding.  The truth should never fear a question; it should never require blind support.  You’ve now been fooled once, so from this point on, it’s shame on you if you’re fooled again.

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