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The Daily Tar Heel

DHMO: Our Nation's Silent Killer

DHMO stands for dihydrogen monoxide, a chemical also known as "hydric acid" or "hydrogen hydroxide." DHMO is a major component of acid rain.

Appalachian coal companies have long used DHMO as a solvent to remove mining impurities from dirty coal. In fact, it's a major component of the 250 million gallons of coal sludge that inundated the Tug Fork, the source of most public water supplies in parts of southern West Virginia and eastern Kentucky.

The sludge created by Martin County Coal's mining operation was left in a giant slurry pool in the hopes that the DHMO would magically "vaporize," leaving behind only "safe" sludge. Yet when this sludge escaped to dump tons of DHMO into the regional water supply, lawyers had the gall to claim in court that the spill "was the direct, sole and proximate result of an act of God, the occurrence of which was not within the control of Martin County Coal."

Whether God was involved or not, the spill worries scientists who worry about details like health and behavioral effects on humans.

DHMO affects many biological processes and has been detected in the neurons of individuals afflicted by paranoid schizophrenia and antisocial personality disorder.

Nearly 90 percent of child molesters have admitted to consuming DHMO mere hours - sometimes minutes - before molesting.

This and other uses of the chemical helped lead to massive DHMO use by guards in concentration camps in Nazi Germany, by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia and by the Colombian army in support of attacks on subsistence farmers in the Andes mountains.

DHMO has become so common in those mountains that as they bury their families, it's said that the survivors' tears are mostly DHMO.

In contrast, DHMO is so scarce in the Middle East that wars have been fought over it. And the U.S. military refuses to deny that American soldiers were exposed to DHMO during the Gulf War. Nearly all of the soldiers afflicted by Gulf War syndrome are among those believed to be infected with DHMO.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 1,058 innocent American children died from DHMO inhalation in 1998, nearly twice the 612 killed by guns. Congress is loaded with itchy fingers that can't wait to squeeze off trigger-lock laws to save the children. Where's the action on DHMO? Who really speaks for our children?

Too few are brave enough to challenge the powerful DHMO lobby. Chemical companies are addicted to this solvent that can crumble iron bars to dust. They may profit by mixing DHMO with sodium to generate an explosion. They don't care that gaseous DHMO causes severe burns. This greedy pro-DHMO lobby has squelched most public debate of DHMO, except on the Internet.

In cyberspace, the so-called "Friends of Hydrogen Hydroxide" rave about the safety and benefits of DHMO. At least one excellent Web site is committed to educating about its dangers. DHMO.org provided many sources for this column, including a news release on the the international Olympic DHMO scam.

Witnesses at last summer's Sydney Olympics - billed as "the most drug-free Olympics ever" - saw dozens of medal-winners using DHMO, sometimes within minutes of competing. Despite the dangers, many believe DHMO will enhance performance if "used correctly." All six marathon medalists were seen ingesting DHMO during the race!

Yet no official report has surfaced so far revealing whether Romanian gymnast Andreea Raducan, her gold medal forfeited because of a dose of common cold medicine, also used DHMO to combat her sniffles.

Internet rumor suggests the coverup is linked to the Salt Lake City bribery scandal, and not just because athletes say privately that nearly everybody will be using DHMO at Salt Lake next year. Witnesses say that liquid DHMO took part in the bribery seduction.

Athletes and executives alike: beware. Inhaled, even a syringe-full of DHMO can be fatal. Blood tests can detect substantial DHMO seconds after oral ingestion. Consumption of large enough quantities can be lethal.

Yet some risk-takers even mix DHMO with alcohol. Twenty-three of 25 criminals jailed on marijuana charges admit to progressing to daily DHMO use before trying marijuana, which leads some drug-warriors to label DHMO a "gateway drug." After progressing to harder drugs, these addicts use DHMO in their drug experience, often involving complicated paraphernalia and bizarre rituals.

Once a victim is seduced, DHMO addiction is dangerous - or impossible - to break. Deprived of DHMO, long-time users suffer a painful withdrawal and often die within days.

Both CDC and the National Institutes of Health report that DHMO has been detected in most tumor biopsies and seems to be vital to the growth of cancer cells.

So why is this substance not banned or regulated? Because even politicians dabble. Gov. Jesse Ventura of Minnesota has been seen drinking from a bottle known to contain DHMO, and nobody believes he's unique.

The clamor must grow for the politicians to act. It's starting. Survey respondents, told that "(DHMO) is found in all forms of cancer, is a major component of acid rain, can be fatal if inhaled and causes severe burns in gaseous form," were asked what should be done.

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Eighty percent demanded a DHMO ban.

Would you?

Russ Helms, a Ph.D. candidate in biostatistics from Chapel Hill, can sometimes see the fnords. E-mail Russ at rhelms@bios.unc.edu.

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