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Whoopsie daisy

In my last post I mentioned how I thought that nitroglycerin the medicine and the explosive were given the same name, but were different substances. I then compared that to how alcohol and rubbing alcohol are different, because you don’t want to drink rubbing alcohol. As it turns out, this was a completely bogus analogy. It turns out that I should’ve been comparing the similarities between the two kinds of alcohol and the two kinds of nitroglycerin instead of trying to show how they were different.

As it turns out, rubbing alcohol and the alcohol we drink are the same thing, it just has to do with the concentration. Most of the alcohol that we drink is between 5 percent and 50 percent ethyl alcohol (the proof is in the proof, with beer/wine being on the lower end and ‘hard’ liquors being on the higher end), whereas rubbing alcohol is about 75 to 90 percent ethyl alcohol. Kind of the way that nitroglycerin the medicine is much more diluted and less concentrated than the explosive.

So why isn’t rubbing alcohol safe for us to drink? Besides the high toxicity of the alcohol levels, methyl alcohol and other poisons are added to rubbing alcohol. This is done so that it can be sold as a disinfectant without the high taxes and restrictions associated with other alcohols. There are also poisons added to give rubbing alcohol its unique smell, which is used as a warning sign to avoid unintentional consumption.

Along with learning new things, I sometimes really enjoy finding out that I’m wrong about something. When I’ve made a mistake and learn about it, I’m much less likely to make the same mistake. It’s an effective learning tool since I have a vested interest in finding out how I screwed up so that I can avoid it in the future. Learning something new by making a mistake ensures that I’ll remember something much better than I would by just learning the same material on its own.

  1. January 13, 2010 at 8:00 pm

    Ooh, that’s pretty cool stuff. I always knew it was poison, but never knew exactly why.

    So, what’s the consensus on drinking mouthwash? I know someone who swallows it when she uses it every morning, but just in very small doses, but I figure it’s still not great.

  2. DJ
    January 13, 2010 at 8:44 pm

    Thanks Jenni. They use a similar process to make mouthwash undesirable to drink, but not nearly as toxic as rubbing alcohol. Drinking the capful or so every morning isn’t going to hurt anything, she’s probably in more danger of getting pulled over for drunk driving after her daily rinse than she is of getting sick off of it. The worst I could find was one person dying after drinking three bottles of listerine. I’ve heard stories about alcoholics drinking aftershave and perfume for the alcohol content.

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