April warning: Dihydrogen oxide alert for St. Lawrence County
Tuesday, April 1, 2014 - 8:50 am

By PAUL HETZLER

Authorities would like to inform North Country residents of the widespread presence of a substance in the local environment known to the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemists (IUPAC) as dihydrogen oxide (DHO).

This unique substance can appear in gaseous, liquid or solid form. Dihydrogen oxide is usually colorless and odorless, making it very hard to detect. One of DHO’s unusual features is that it transitions directly from a solid to a gas.

Although at this time there’s no conclusive evidence that its gaseous form causes health problems, its other phases do pose real risks. Prolonged contact with the solid form of DHO has been known to cause permanent tissue damage. In some cases, amputations have been necessary.

The public is also advised to use caution in the proximity of dihydrogen oxide’s liquid form, as this compound is able to dissolve a great many things with which it comes in contact. Most inorganic mineral compounds, as well as some organic chemicals, readily dissolve in dihydrogen oxide. DHO is even able to dissolve stone and concrete; in some cases, great quantities have been melted away.

Dihydrogen oxide is known to damage other materials, and is particularly destructive to wood, paper and ferrous metals. Small to moderate quantities of DHO promote the decay of wood, leather and other organic matter.

Extremely high levels of liquid DHO have led to difficulty breathing or even pulmonary failure in some instances.

Although DHO is a fairly simple molecule, consisting of two hydrogen atoms fused to an oxygen atom, do not underestimate its power. Please use caution in the presence of DHO. The public should be aware that dihydrogen oxide goes by a confusing array of colloquial, non-IUPAC names throughout the world, such as “Eau,” “Agua,” “H-2-O,” and “Water.”

Happy April Fool’s Day! Be sure to drink lots of water.

Paul Hetzler is a forester and Cornell Cooperative Extension of St. Lawrence County horticulture and natural resources educator, and a joker