5 Sep 2013

Counter argument to be fair.

Were Syrians massacred using a toothpaste ingredient?

By Donald Hank

First, let's get one thing straight. I try to avoid using Splenda, adding the natural product stevioside to my coffee instead. And I brush my teeth with baking soda to avoid contact with fluoride.

But I also try to avoid spreading false rumors, even about things I don't like. Fair is fair.

Have a look at this formula:
    [(CH3)2CHO]CH3P(O)F
It is the gross chemical formula for Sarin gas.

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing – or at least, an embarrassing thing.

And Mike Adams is a nice guy and I like his web site.

But Mike sometimes gets confused.

He writes the headline: "Syria's 'chemical weapons' turn out to be sodium fluoride," suggesting that the same stuff used to fluoridate water, is the chemical used to kill people in Syria.

That's like saying salt is a deadly gas. In a roundabout way that could be construed as true because table salt (NaCl) is used as a raw material to produce chlorine (the Cl in the formula), which is in fact a deadly gas. But if you say that, you are ignoring the fact that salt is a solid and is essentially non-toxic. I am not suggesting sodium fluoride is not toxic. It is.

However, the chemicals used in chemical production reactions don't have anywhere close to the same properties as the finished product. Thank goodness. The fluorine in Sarin gas may indeed come from sodium fluoride. But that doesn't mean the deadly gas used in the massacre was sodium fluoride. It wasn't.

For instance, salt is a starting material for a lot of chemicals. In fact, I once did contract translation work for a major chemical company, and I discovered that, at least at that time (35 yr ago), their main starting material was salt. But that didn't mean that their products were harmless. In fact, a great many poisons contain the element chlorine in their molecule. You see, there is this thing called chemical bonding, and it makes all the difference in the world in industrial chemical production.

For one thing, the recent tragic deaths in Syria are universally attributed to agas. Sodium fluoride is a solid, and is usually dissolved in water for use. So the culprit was hardly sodium fluoride (NaF).

The lethal dose for NaF is a whopping 5-10 g. It would be impossible to poison 1000 people without first dissolving it in water, but it would be pretty hard to get those 1000 people to voluntarily drink the stuff because in solution at high concentrations, NaF tastes soapy.

Now we know that European countries sold sodium fluoride to Middle Eastern countries, the same as it sells the stuff to dealers in Europe. So what is the link to Sarin?

Well, since Sarin contains fluorine in its molecule (that's the F at the end of the above formula), it is likely that NaF is a starting material in the production of Sarin.

"But, but,.." Mike might protest. "One article says, right here that Europe sold 'nerve gas chemical' to Middle East countries."

Yep, in fact several sensationalist headlines said exactly that. Which is why journalists need to learn science and why secondary reporters need to read between the lines.

Technically speaking, you are breathing "nerve gas chemical" right now because the Sarin molecule also contains C (carbon), H (hydrogen) and O (oxygen). In the jargon of irresponsible journalism, these are all "nerve gas chemicals" in an informal sense (although, needless to say, no professional scientist would ever call them that) because they are all components of the Sarin molecule.

A similar argument is brought to bear against sucralose (Splenda®), which, we are ominously warned, "contains chlorine." But sucralose does not contain free chlorine. Its molecule contains chemically bonded Cl which has lost its toxicity and other properties in the bonding process. So before you go off half-cocked and regurgitate information from articles written by well-meaning reporters on a mission to return the world back to nature, check with a scientist – or bone up on chemistry.

It could save you some embarrassment.

© Donald Hank

1 comment:

Cllr Chris Cooke said...

Useful article tempering some media hysteria with sane science. Thank you Bill (and Donald).