Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Mercaptan! Mercaptan!

So, Charles Sturcken, a spokesman for the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, said that the mysterious odor that hovered over Manhattan yesterday wafted over from New Jersey's industrialized waterfront (shocking). I've read a few reports that theorize the smell originated in the Meadowland swamps (I'm imagining a huge burp erupting from beneath Giants Stadium which causes among other things the exhumation of Jimmy Hoffa's remains). According to 1010Wins.com
Sturcken said that the odor could have been caused by mercaptan, the chemical added to normally odorless natural gas to make it easily detectable, but he added, "Nothing has been confirmed."
Mercaptan, C2H5SH, also called thiol, comes to us from Medieval Latin via Danish and then German. The Medieval Latin mercurium captāns literally means "seizing mercury" because of the -SH group's ability to bind tightly with the element mercury, which was of great importance to the early alchemists.

And if yesterday's smell was familiar, get this: the notorious asparagus pee effect is caused from the breakdown of mercaptan. According to Take Our Word For It
Mercaptans are found in onions, skunks, rotten eggs, and farts! And, of course, asparagus. One source says that humans can detect the odor of mercaptans at 0.02 parts per billion. If correct that is quite astounding.
It looks like Take Our Word For It forgot to include one thing in its list of places where we find mercaptan: New Jersey.

Thiol [Wikipedia]
Mercaptan [AHD]

Labels: , ,

:: posted by David, 11:36 AM


Add a comment