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Danger of Dihydrogen Monoxide

by Ron Kurtus (revised 17 April 2013)

There have been reports that the chemical dihydrogen monoxide (DHMO) has been used in various products and can be dangerous to the health of people in certain situations.

Note: This is really a humorous view about how things can be exaggerated.

Questions you may have include:

This lesson will answer those questions.


Some of the dangers of DHMO include:

Also, DHMO is used in the production of Styrofoam.

One community in California recently considered banning foam cups because DHMO is used in the manufacture of them.

What is DHMO?

Chemistry students can analyze the name of DHMO to determine the chemical formula of the substance.

"Di-" before an element usually indicates there are two atoms of that element in the formula. Thus, there are two atoms of hydrogen.

"Mono-" or "mon-" before an element indicates there is one atom of that element in the formula. Thus, there is one atom of oxygen in the formula.

Since there are two atoms of hydrogen and one atom of oxygen in the molecule, its formula is:


We normally call that compound water!

What are the real dangers?

There are actually some dangers from water:

Frozen water is ice. Prolonged exposure to ice can cause severe tissue damage, such as frostbite.

Accidental inhalation of too much water can cause death by drowning.

When rain passes through chemical pollutants in the air, it can acidify, turning into acid rain.

Although water is used in the production of materials like Styrofoam, it is not recommended that you eat such materials.

So, you can see that it is possible that water can be harmful in some situations.


Like any other common substances, the chemical dihydrogen monoxide (DHMO) can be dangerous or harmful in some situations. Knowledge of Chemistry will help avoid misunderstandings.

Have some fun

Resources and references

Ron Kurtus' Credentials

Websites - Tongue-in-cheek site dedicated to expose the "dangers" of dihydrogen monoxide

Scientific American - Antigravity column by Steve Mirsky, June 2004

Chemistry Resources


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