Chemicals & Chemistry

One of the chemicals that's commonly added to foods is the preservative sodium benzoate. Just how much food would you have to eat before that chemical killed you? It's tough to say exactly, but it's safe to conclude that the only real threat is if you get hit by a truck hauling sodium benzoate.
In the age of "Facebook science," the weight of evidence must compete with powerful popular narratives. Can common sense help? Let's take a look.
Two Arkansas professors were recently charged with making methamphetamine. But the chemical that police found was a simple reagent called benzyl chloride. Are these guys guilty? It all depends on the chemistry.
As you know, Thanksgiving is just around the corner and you're probably salivating at the thought of all the yummy traditional dishes. That is, unless you're a member of the Environmental Working Group, a bunch of anti-chemical alarmists backed by a grand tradition of ghastly science. What might they be eating for Thanksgiving? Let's find out.
The tragic accident, when a restaurant manager in Massachusetts died, was the result of a simple chemical reaction called neutralization. That's when an acid and a base are combined. Unfortunately in this case, the base was sodium hypochlorite, or bleach. When bleach is acidified, deadly chlorine is released. It's a terrible shame this young manager wasn't aware of this fatal combination. So you can stay safe, here's what to look out for.
Some chemicals are so dangerous that even experienced chemists hate to use them. Here's a real doozy. Diazomethane is an explosive, highly toxic gas, which is a carcinogen. It is made from another toxic carcinogen and the chemical that makes Drano work. Aside from that, it's just fine.
If you're driving around the southwest and find yourself in the middle of nowhere, pay attention. That's because you never know when you might be near a place of historic significance. There's just such a place in the Arizona desert called Chloride, and here's how it got its name. And a little chemistry lesson (at no extra charge).
Instead of getting a flu shot, a Columbia University professor who believes in natural remedies chose a "tincture of elderberry." Her effort was rewarded with cyanide poisoning.
The mystery of vaping deaths widens. What is going on? Let's ask Steve. We go back a long way, so when a tricky chemistry problem comes up we like to fire off an email, to pick his warped brain. Often he is right on the mark.
The premise of the "alkaline diet" is to alter the pH levels of your blood, in order to facilitate weight loss and fight disease. Too bad then that "alkalizing” the body is a completely nonsensical concept.
Although no official cause of serious, vaping-related lung injuries has been established, chemistry can enable us to make a reasonable guess. And it all goes back to a simple procedure that you may have done in high school chem lab: distillation.
There is wide divergence on the safety assessment of these chemicals, thus making communication with the public extremely difficult.