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Okay, this is for all you folks with AOL or Hotmail accounts. The most persistent urban legend of all is the myth that we - your friends, family and co-workers - actually open and read all those forwarded emails you send us. Sorry to be the one to break the news, but who wants to open 17 attachments to get to the original email you sent? Especially with all the computer viruses prevalent out there.

That said, let’s talk a little bit about the good old days. I’m sure you’ve all heard and/or read about the sorry state of American education today, and how liberal social programs promoted by nefarious politicians (and maybe, just maybe, a secret, unacknowledged super-government working to purposely dumb-down the American public) has ruined education for children in public schools today. Not that way in “the good old days,” right? Why, American education used to be the best in teaching reading, writing and ‘rithmatic and if we’d just go back to that focus, everything would be okay.

The problem with that argument, of course, is the people who are making it. Take a look at the level of intelligence demonstrated by the average American today, and you tell me when it was that we did such a great job of education. And there’s nothing like a forwarded email to prove that point.

As an example, take a look at the email warning of the dangers of dihydrogen monoxide (and if you haven’t received it yet, hang on – it’s on its way). Before I tell you about this, let me point out one little fact – this one, unlike the warnings about aspartame, coca cola and jet contrails, is true.

“Dihydrogen monoxide is colorless, odorless, tasteless and kills uncounted thousands of people every year. Most of these deaths are caused by accidental inhalation of DHMO, but the dangers... do not end there. Prolonged exposure to its solid form causes severe tissue damage.... For those who have become dependent, DHMO withdrawal means certain death.” Oh, man, why haven’t I heard about this before?!

In addition, we’re warned, dihydrogen monoxide... “is the major component of acid rain...contributes to the “greenhouse effect”...may cause severe burns... contributes to erosion... (and) has been found in excised tumors of laboratory rats.” If that’s not bad enough, we learn DHMO “has been found in almost every stream, lake and reservoir in America today,” and has been proven as the cause of “millions of dollars worth of property damage. Companies dump waste DHMO into rivers and the ocean, and nothing can be done to stop them because this practice is still legal.

“A recent stunning revelation is that in every single instance of violence in our country's schools, including infamous shootings in high schools in Denver and Arkansas, Dihydrogen Monoxide was involved,” I read. “In fact, DHMO is often very available to students of all ages within the assumed safe confines of school buildings.”

If this hasn’t scared you enough, take a look at the “official” website at www.dhmo.org.

In true American spirit, hundreds of thousands of people who receive this email will forward it on to every single person in their email address book. Some will even write their congressmen, wondering why the American government hasn’t banned this pernicious product. These concerned citizens, let me remind you, were educated in “the good old days.”

A student (or former student) educated in critical thinking skills, taught how to read and analyze information (where are these kids, anyway?) might decide to look into this problem a little closer before freaking out over it and, when they do, what will they find? Why, dihydrogen monoxide is nothing more than good old water.

So where did this email originate? It came from a high school science project. In 1997 Nathan Zohner, a 14-year-old student at Eagle Rock Junior High School in Idaho Falls, Idaho (that’s right, Idaho), won first place in his school science fair with this little project. And he pointed out that 89% of his peer group favored an immediate ban on the substance.

Still, one fellow student recognized the substance as water, and I have to wonder how many adults would manage to do the same. (I freely admit, despite my great interest in science, I didn’t. I had to look it up.)

The point here is, please don’t hit the forward button on every little email that pops into your inbox. Take a minute to check the facts... and try to remember what constitutes a fact. Despite the rather impressive looking website on the dangers of DHMO, with links to the EPA, Centers for Disease Control, American Cancer Institute and Greenpeace, websites are not facts. (Remember Harry Potter?) And don’t think that folks educated in “the good old days” are too smart too fall for a good, old-fashioned hoax. Because they aren’t.

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Landon Otis

Tagged as:

urban legends, water, DHMO

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