It’s all in the chemistry

When I was a kid, one of my father’s friends bought a bottle of alcohol from a man on the street. He brought it over to my dad’s work to share. Dad took one whiff of it and threw it away. His friend was mad, but my dad knew exactly what he was doing. Dad had grown with solvents and chemicals, so he knew methanol when he smelled it.

A trained chemist could have also made the distinction. They can also recognize methanol when they see it. You see, although ethanol and methanol are made up of the same atoms of Carbon, Oxygen, and Hydrogen, the arrangement of the atoms is what’s key. How atoms are arranged in a chemical maters a whole lot, and it is something you need to keep in mind when you are being bombarded by misinformation about vaccine preservatives.

In our “cocktail o’ death” example, ethanol, the actual alcohol that makes you all sorts of easy to get along with, looks like this:

In this image, C is for Carbon, H is for Hydrogen, and O is for Oxygen. On the other hand, methanol looks like this:

Oh, look! It’s made up of the same stuff. Of course, if you look closely, you’ll see that methanol has one carbon while ethanol has two carbons. (Those links between the atoms represent electrons linking the atoms through energy bonds. The ones that look like cones are drawn that way to represent the 3D position of the atoms, with the solid cone telling us that the hydrogen atom is toward us while the hydrogen atom with the segmented cone is behind, or away, from us.) These chemicals are collectively called “alcohols”, and you can recognize them because they all have a carbon that is attached to an OH. The length of the carbon chain tells you the name of the alcohol. One carbon and it’s “methanol”. Two carbons and it’s “ethanol”. Three carbons, and it’s “propanol”. A form of propanol, where the OH is attached to the middle of three carbons, is isopropyl alcohol, rubbing alcohol.

Here’s a fun at-home science project. Mix equal parts rubbing alcohol and distilled water. Note that the alcohol kind of mixes in with the water. Now add salt to the solution and notice what happens. The alcohol layer separates out pretty well from the now salty water. Go on and try it, or watch this video:

This gets me to my next point. Table salt is sodium chloride, and it looks like this:

See how it’s made up of one atom of sodium (Na) and one atom of chloride (Cl)? Together, they make up table salt. You’ve added table salt to water, haven’t you? When you make a nice soup or something salty? Does it blow up? It does not. However, this is what happens when you add sodium alone to water:

That’s right, it explodes! How about chloride? Chlorine gas has been used to kill people as a chemical weapon. So how can these two very serious and deadly things come together to be just plain table salt? Well, it’s all in the chemistry.

This is how table salt is made in the laboratory:

On our planet, the salt deposits and salt in the oceans was made millions of years ago, when this planet was a ball of melted stuff.

Okay, so what about the preservatives in vaccines? What does this little chemistry lesson have to do with those?

Well, I gave you this short lesson in chemistry to stress the fact that chemicals are all about the chemistry. First, you have to understand how the chemical reacts with us. Do we absorb and retain it, or do we excrete it? In the case of thimerosal, we do absorb it, but we don’t retain it. We get rid of it quite easily. Think of it as an analogous reaction as ethanol and methanol; both are alcohols, one is deadly at a low concentration (methanol), while the other is also deadly, but you have a ton of fun getting there. (So to speak.)

Thimerosal is an organic mercury, meaning that it’s mercury that’s attached to a carbon compound. This is what allows it to be processed and discarded by the body. Inorganic mercury, the mercury you see in thermometers, is not attached to those carbon compounds, so it’s hard for the body to get rid of it. Inorganic mercury is usually attached to a “salt”, and it can really do a number on your kidneys.

What about formaldehyde? That’s also a vaccine preservative. Remember what I wrote about “one is deadly at a low concentration”? Well, this is not true of formaldehyde. You need a hefty dose of it to mess you up. Vaccines don’t have that much in them, and you process it and get rid of it pretty quickly. Does it look familiar?

Wow! One hydrogen away from being methanol. In fact, your body turns methanol into formaldehyde on the way to making water-soluble formic acid formate that can be excreted from your body and is a building block for other things. But the body doesn’t get formaldehyde from drinking it only. We get it from our own cellular processes. We make more formaldehyde in our own cellular processes than we get from a vaccine.

The long and short of this all is that you really need to be well-versed in chemistry before you go believing the lies and misinformation of those who say that vaccines are “witches’ brews” and whatnots. Notice that they won’t tell you how much of the “toxin” is in the vaccine, and they’ll quote studies done on mice whereby the mice were given those “toxins” in what would be the “truckload” for us. You really do need to get yourself educated, or these anti-vaxers will trick you into a dangerous decision.

EDITS: Edited to correct the reaction of formaldehyde to formate, not formic acid.

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12 thoughts on “It’s all in the chemistry

  1. I was wondering how long until someone picked that up. I meant to write "one hydrogen bonded to carbon away from being methanol". Thanks for reading.

  2. "One hydrogen away from being methanol."Ummm…. I'm pretty sure that is *two* hydrogen away, unless I've missed something. CH3OH – 4 hydrogen; CH2O – 2 hydrogen.

  3. Wow! really nice info.I never thought such kinds of reaction would take place. Actually I liked the video more. it cleared a lot.

  4. Agreed. It's pretty hard to explain to people that anything can be toxic at sufficient concentration. Formaldehyde is found in fruits but you still feed them to your kids. Seriously parents, if you want to make a medical decision, study medicine first at a correct university.

  5. Awfully glad you didn't get seriously hurt by that sodium prank. That was extremely irresponsible of that Chem teacher. I hope he's not still teaching Chemistry.

  6. Grasten – Ions are charged atoms. If I get too technical, I'm going to lose the reader(s).As is, this was not an explanation aimed at the anti-vaxers, per se. It was aimed at people on the fence who get bombarded by the lies and misinformation from anti-vaxers.

  7. Except picking on the details – such as table salt being composed of a sodium ion and a chloride ion, not atoms – hopefully an explanation even antivaxers can get a grip on!

  8. When I was in AP chem class in high school, I was also a lab asst in regular chem. As a joke, the chem teacher had me clean off a tray of what he said was something else but turned out to be sodium. And thus it exploded, a bit, and the class laughed at me. I was chem lab asst because I was a good sport! And I always paid really good attention to the ingredients after that! LOL

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