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I don’t want to panic you, but it is possible that you may have been exposed to dihydrogen monoxide (DHMO). This substance is a main component in many acids, it can accelerate corrosion and even cause burns under certain circumstances. Despite the hazard DHMO presents to us, it is still often used in nuclear power plants, as a fire retardant, in pesticides, as an industrial solvent, as an additive to certain foods and can almost certainly be found in your household. You should take precautions to ensure that your home is dihydrogen monoxide-free in order to ensure your health.
In case that first paragraph alarmed you, you might want to read until the end before you start DHMO-proofing your house. If you have some understanding of chemistry, then you probably realized that dihydrogen monoxide is just a fancy-pants name for something not only quite common and harmless, but actually vital to our health – water.
Most of us will probably recognize water under the form H2O, but that’s about it. However, H2O basically means that the substance in question has two hydrogen molecules and one oxygen molecule. Then, by using chemical nomenclature, you can come up with all kinds of different names for water such as the aforementioned dihydrogen monoxide, hydric acid, hydrogen oxide, hydroxilic acid etc. Each one sounds more harmful than the last, but they still refer to plain old water.
Calling water dihydrogen monoxide has been used as a popular hoax for decades. It is often used to show how gullible people can be or just to scare them for good ol’ fashioned fun. It usually works because it preys upon one of the biggest misplaced fears in modern society – chemicals. Don’t get me wrong, plenty of chemicals are harmful and dangerous, but there are way too many people who believe that a completely chemical-free world would be much better for us. To them, anything that sounds even remotely like a chemical is bad. Combine that with a general lack of chemistry knowledge and you get a successful hoax that has often been repeated with no diminishing returns. It has been discovered that, generally, just adding the word “monoxide” is enough to scare plenty of people. It has a negative connotation to most of us, mostly due to carbon monoxide poisoning which many (incorrectly) abbreviate to monoxide poisoning, thus creating an impression that all monoxide is bad, all the time.
Like I said, this hoax is quite common. Various newspapers and radio stations have successfully scared their audiences with the threat of dihydrogen monoxide. Even so, the most successful application of the prank was by a 14-year old student named Nathan Zohner who did a project titled “How Gullible Are We?” for his local science fair. You can pretty much guess what happened next. He interviewed 50 9th grade students and asked them about the dangers of dihydrogen monoxide. Only one of them was actually able to tell it’s water. 43 of the students were in favor of outright banning dihydrogen monoxide. Nathan won first prize.