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Monday, December 26, 2005

methanethiol

Russia reports gas attack in Maksidom stores apparently a criminal blackmail plot. Story says mercaptan

So here's the funny thing - the first story I saw on this in Mogginn said unidentified (fair enough) sulphur gas that smelled of 'bad garlic'.

Quick, name a gas that makes a lot of people sick and smells like bad garlic? It is not mercaptan A thioether rather than a thiol. Well, can't be pure mustard gas or some of the people would have blistered and died. On the other hand, mercaptans are used as natural gas alert mixes precisely because they are not toxic. Specifically CH3SH (methyl mercaptan) which is the claimed gas in this instant. And it smells like cabbage, not garlic, a Russian should know the difference!

Did someone get a hold of old, partly degraded Mustard Gas? And was it commercial blackmail?
Not that I am paranoid or anything. Or not, not really consistent with thiodiglycol either. Weird.
But I don't believe it was just mercaptan.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Luke, I am your fungus! said...

You are not organic chemist and you are mixing together different thing.

Thiol = mercaptan = R-SH (R: alkyl)

Methyl mercaptan MeSH stinks like cooking gas and in concentrated form smells like excrement. It is used to odorise natural gas because it is very stinky and gaseous but less nauseating than other mercatans (ethyl mercaptan = very nasty excrement odor, other mercaptans often smell like skunk).

Methyl sulfide (aka dimethyl sulfide) MeSMe smells like awfull rotten cabage but has higher threshold than thiols.

Dimethyl disulfide MeS-SMe smells like rotten garlic and forms very easily by air oxidation of MeSH.
MeSSMe is a liquid, MeSH is a gas.

So, a plausible theory is that someone refused to pay protection money and the extortionists planted a stinkbomb. They used a crude mixture containing MeSH and MeSSMe.

12:32 AM  
Blogger Steinn said...

I am not an organic chemist, and I am grateful for this every day...

What I did not believe is that the smell and symptoms could be from methyl mercaptan alone; the garlic smell put me in mind of mustard, but the reported symptoms were not consistent with mustard, nor its decay products.

Dimethyl sulfide is produced by bacterial aerobic digestion of methanethiol, but I had not realised it was spontaneously formed. My understanding is that it also has a "cabbagy" odour, not garlic. It is also not particularly toxic. I still don't understand what caused people's symptoms.

10:17 PM  

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