Fact: there are chemicals all around us. Of course! We eat, drink, breathe them all the time, and how lucky you’re still alive to read this article. Most people think of the word chemical as any harmful, toxic, or dangerous substance that’s a threat to us. Truth is, some chemicals are way subtle than you think.
However, with your preconception in mind, there are dangerous chemicals, too. They’re poisonous, corrosive, volatile — that could set concrete on fire — with others having a pungent smell that induce vomiting, others can even cause cancer. Yes, your thoughts were right. Dear friends, here are the top ten most dangerous chemicals ever known to mankind. They pose a threat if you ever come into contact with them, so here’s what to do if you’re accidentally exposed to these substances. You’re WARNED!
Related media: Deadliest Chemicals In The World
If for any reason you ingest or come into contact with a potentially harmful chemical substance, call 911 (or the emergency services number for your country or state) immediately, and request help from medical authorities. For additional help, contact the 24-hour American Association of Poison Control Centers (ASPCA) at 1-800-222-1222; but if an animal or your pet has been exposed, contact the ASPCA National Animal Poison Control Center at 1-888-426-4435.
#10. Ethylene Glycol
Discovery: 1856; Composition: Hydrogen (H), Carbon (C), Oxygen (O); Chemical Formula: C2H6O2;
IUPAC name: ethane-1,2-diol;
Where To Find it: Computer and automobile coolants, antifreeze, some air conditioning systems.
You probably have a bottle of this chemical at home. Ethylene glycol — the main ingredient in anti-freeze — is a common household chemical used in car coolants. Although it’s highly toxic. It is converted into glycol aldehyde in your body by the same enzymes that break down the booze you drink. The glycol aldehyde is then oxidized into glycolic acid — another chemical as dangerous as it sounds.
This acid messes with your body’s pH balance which has a cytotoxic effect. What this means is that it kills cells, and also damages the kidneys and central nervous system. Ethylene glycol is notoriously dangerous for a sweet taste, which makes children, pets, and even adults guzzle it by accident just to suffer its consequences later. That’s a sweet killer!
Have you ever gotten in contact with Ethylene glycol before?
Discovery: 1897; Composition: Hydrogen (H), Carbon (C), Oxygen (O), Chlorine (Cl); Chemical Formula: C12H4Cl4O2;
IUPAC name: 1,4-Dioxacyclohexa-2,5-diene;
Where To Find it: The contaminated fat of meat, fish and dairy products through industrial processes.
Aside its weird and dreadful name, 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin — also known as TCDD or simply dioxin — is an extremely toxic chemical that can be produced as a byproduct of incomplete combustion (i.e., combustion without enough oxygen present). It is known to causes chloracne, lesions on the body that damages fatty organs such as the liver, spleen, and intestines.
Here’s the catch: Dioxin is a fat-soluble molecule and tends to accumulate in fatty tissues and then stick around. It is widely known, however, no one knows how dioxin works or why it has such severe effects. What this means is that the treatment for dioxin poisoning is a bit of a guessing game, and the odds aren’t in your favor.
Have you ever gotten in contact with Dioxin before?
Discovery: 1960s; Composition: Hydrogen (H), Carbon (C), Oxygen (O), Nitrogen (N); Chemical Formula: C31H42N2O6;
IUPAC name: Betrachotoxinin A, 20-alpha-(2,4-dimethyl-1H-pyrrole-3-carboxylate) (9CI);
Where To Find it: The skin of poison dart frogs.
Native to certain frog species in South America, batrachotoxin is one of the most potent poisons ever known. It will take just two micrograms per kilogram to spell out its damage. This means that a fully grown man can be killed by that same amount of dose. It is a neurotoxin, which makes it an agent for preventing neurones from sending electrical and chemical messages to one another. This is what halts the central nervous system leading to paralysis and ultimately death.
Have you ever gotten in contact with Batrachotoxin before?
#7. Potassium Cyanide
Discovery: 1752; Composition: Carbon (C), Nitrogen (N), Potassium (K); Chemical Formula: KCN;
IUPAC name: Potassium cyanide
Where To Find it: Ore-processing factories, some photographic fixers.
Potassium cyanide is a salt, but not the one you’re used to seasoning your food with. It has gained notoriety for being the number one choice ingredient for most suicide agent all over the world. It is very lethal to the extent that it has been dubbed the silence and quick killer. Highly deadly!
It disables your cellular respiratory system, the process by which your body inhibits an enzyme for the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP serves as the primary energy exchange for the body, the key component for staying alive. Introduce potassium cyanide into the body and the victim will fall unconscious, and then suffer until death, too quick.
Have you ever gotten in contact with Potassium cyanide before?
Discovery: 1889; Composition: Hydrogen (H), Carbon (C), Sulfur (S); Chemical Formula: C3H6S;
IUPAC name: Propane-2-thione;
Where To Find it: Some chemistry laboratories.
Most chemicals in this list are deadly, obviously. However, thioacetone isn’t poisonous, nor corrosive, nor explosive, nor even volatile. Yes! But why is it dangerous in this list? All because of one peculiar property. Its smell. So how does it smell like? We can’t really tell, but what that smell is going to do to you is what’s worth mentioning. The stench is often described as “fearful,” causing anyone who sniffs it to vomit immediately, even faint or flee from the vicinity.
Here’s the backstory: in 1889, a group of scientists accidentally managed to synthesize some thioacetone while working with a related compound in Freiburg, Germany. The stench was so pungent that it could be detected from a kilometer away. This led to an evacuation of the entire town as people began to vomit uncontrollably. In summary, thioacetone won’t kill you, but it smell will let you wish you were dead.
Have you ever gotten in contact with Thioacetone before?
Discovery: 1858; Composition: Hydrogen (H), Carbon (C), Mercury (Hg); Chemical Formula: HgC2H6;
IUPAC name: Dimethylmercury
Where To Find it: Reference toxin sets.
The toxic effects of mercury is pretty much common to you, but this liquid metal isn’t harmful as you think it is. Mercury on its own cannot bind with any tissue in the body, thus it cannot be absorbed.
Enter dimethylmercury — a simple little molecule that consists of a central mercury atom bonded to two methyl(CH3) groups. This combination spelled danger on the life of one chemist (more on that later). The addition of the two methyl groups allows the compound to be readily absorbed into the blood, it is then that mercury can cause harm.
In 1996, the horrific effects of dimethylmercury was witnessed on chemist Karen Wetterhahn when she accidentally spilled two drops of the chemical on her gloves while working in the lab. She thought the latex gloves were durable enough to prevent the chemical from coming into contact with her skin, so she didn’t fret. Unfortunately, that was not the case.
Two drops of dimethylmercury made her began to exhibit signs of cognitive impairment after a few months. She suffered impaired speech, loss of memory, and frequently fatigued that soon led to a coma that eventually ended her life. It was just two drops. Hmmm!
Have you ever gotten in contact with Dimethylmercury before?
#4. Fluoroantimonic Acid
Discovery: Uncertain; Composition: Hydrogen (H), Fluorine (F), Antimony (Sb); Chemical Formula: H2SbF6;
IUPAC name: Fluoroantimonic acid
Where To Find it: Tetraxenon gold compound manufacturing factories.
Fluoroantimonic acid is the strongest acid in the world. Think of sulphuric acid, it’s quite strong, huh? Truth is, fluoroantimonic acid is like ten quadrillion times stronger than that. This chemical can virtually eat into anything — plastic, wood, glass and could even melt bones and still be hungry for more. The only known storage for it is in Teflon containers, which are highly resistant to corrosive substances. Scientists study it by diluting it by a factor of thousand times less. What’s more, it also reacts violently with water.
Have you ever gotten in contact with Fluoroantimonic acid before?
#3. Azidoazide Azide
Discovery: Uncertain; Composition: Carbon (C), Nitrogen (N); Chemical Formula: C2N14;
IUPAC name: 1-Diazidocarbamoyl-5-azidotetrazole;
Where To Find it: Almost nowhere — but possibly some chemistry laboratories.
This is known as the most volatile explosive compound currently known to man. Comprising of 14 nitrogen atoms, it is loosely bound in a high-energy conformation. What this means is that in such state molecules tend to move down into a lower energy state. And this transition releases energy. It is notoriously unstable that anything — the slightest pressure, friction, temperature change, or any condition whatsoever — can cause it to go kaboom. As a matter of fact, it’s so volatile to the point that it’s too explosive to measure how explosive it is.
Have you ever gotten in contact with Azidoazide azide before?
#2. Chlorine Trifluoride
Discovery: 1930s; Composition: Fluorine (F), Chlorine (Cl); Chemical Formula: ClF3;
IUPAC name: Trifluoro-λ3-chlorane;
Where To Find it: Rocket propellant, semiconductor cleaner.
Discovered by Nazi scientists during World War II, it was slated to be used in combat against the Allies. But after two years of studying the chemical, it was deemed too unstable. Could you believe that it was too dangerous for the Nazis. Of course! It’s highly hypergolic and will react explosively with just about anything — albeit glass, sand, metal, and of course, water. It’s even explosive with asbestos — the most fire-retardant substance in existence.
Here’s a real story: in the 1950s, scientists tried to convey a ton of the stuff in a specialized tanker. Unfortunately, the tanker accidentally spilled on the floor of a warehouse as scientists witnessed the chemical ate right through several feet of concrete and gravel. It released hydrofluoric acid that burned everything in its path. There was absolutely no way to extinguish it. That’s one hell of a disaster.
“It is, of course, extremely toxic, but that’s the least of the problem,” said John D. Clark, chemist and rocket scientist, about the volatility of chlorine trifluoride. “It is hypergolic with every known fuel, and so rapidly hypergolic that no ignition delay has ever been measured.”
Have you ever gotten in contact with Chlorine trifluoride before?
Discovery: Uncertain; Composition: Hydrogen (H), Carbon (C), Cadmium (Cd); Chemical Formula: C2H6Cd;
IUPAC name: Cadmium (2+); carbanide;
Where To Find it: Formerly found in laboratories.
Sounds familiar with dimethylmercury? Of course! It is even worse than that. Almost every chemist will agree that dimethylcadmium is the world’s most dangerous chemical ever known to man. Cadmium is more volatile, and lighter than mercury, thus it absorbs instantly into the bloodstream. At worst, it rips apart all vital organs that readily need more blood supply, especially your heart, your lungs, and even your brain. There’s no way you’ll survive this.
But if, miraculously, you manage to survive, it’s certainly not over. It’s highly carcinogenic, meaning that it causes cancer. Yikes! That’s not all the bad news. It’s volatile enough to explode in water, and eventually decomposes into dimethyl calcium peroxide, another highly explosive agent. So to wrap it up, it’s volatile, poisonous, carcinogenic, explosive, and a notorious molecule that can be easily called the most dangerous chemical in the world. Period!
Have you ever gotten in contact with Dimethylcadmium before?
What’s even more?
Here are some other chemicals that couldn’t make this list, but we had to acknowledge. These include the likes of Asbestos, Botulinum toxin, Carbon monoxide, Formaldehyde, Hydrogen chloride and Hydrochloric acid, Hydrogen fluoride and Hydrofluoric acid, Phthalates, Sulfuric acid, and so many other chemical bandits in the world of science we cannot mention.
Let us know any dangerous chemicals you think should be in this list.
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Written by: Nana Kwadwo, Tue, Nov 30, 2021.