If you surf the internet often, you may have seen recent warnings about something called “Drano Bombs.” According to the online posts, adolescents are mixing Drano with a small amount of water in a water bottle, then putting a piece of tin foil on the top. These bottles are being left in people’s yards, and when the unsuspecting home-owner goes to throw away the bottle, the deadly mixture is agitated and explodes.
Many stories such as the above one are simply urban legends, i.e., stories that have been passed around and elaborated upon until they are merely overblown rumors. If you ever hear something like this circulating and you want to check its authenticity, there are two good websites to find out if something is an urban legend or the truth. These sites are-
In the past, there have been crazy urban legends that have had quite a negative effect on people. After the discovery of the AIDS epidemic, there was an urban legend that people were sticking infected syringes on the sides of gas nozzles, so that when a person went to buy gas, they were poking themselves and getting the virus. There have also been multiple slanderous rumors about various companies, claiming that they were owned by satanic cults or in some other way involved in nefarious plots. The Snopes site has been powerful in educating people and showing that most of these stories were just ridiculous rumors.
Unfortunately, the story about Drano Bombs is TRUE.
On June 4th, a news station in Chicago reported that in North Aurora there had been a series of these Drano bombs left outside of five homes in three different neighborhoods. The real danger of these small bombs comes if a person is holding them when they explode, with the possibility of extreme burns to the hands and face. For the original story, see the following link-
With these concerns in mind, it is easy to see why a high-school student in Florida was expelled from school after she made a Drano bomb. Yet critics bring up the very valid point that almost everyone who has ever had a chemistry class has had fun blowing up something at some point in their life.
It has also been pointed out that the young woman was a model student, and she is African American. Critics of her expulsion suggest that her behavior was misconstrued due to a racial bias, whereas the same behavior by a white student may have resulted in teachers marking him or her as a promising scientist. For more information on this story, see the following link-
The basic science behind Drano Bombs is that the sodium in the Drano combines with the aluminum creating a crystal called sodium aluminate, (NaAIO2,) as well as a large amount of hydrogen gas. When this mixture is agitated it explodes.
If you’re wondering how she learned to make a Drano bomb, the frightening answer is that the information is everywhere. There are even videos on YouTube showing people how to make them as a form of entertainment.
So what do we do as concerned citizens? Do we report the YouTube videos as dangerous in the hope that they will be banned? This does not appear to be the answer because the information is on multiple websites and in all probability is being passed on mostly by word of mouth from one teenager to another. Banning these websites also brings up serious freedom of speech issues, and the fact is that some people may be using Drano Bombs, (also called “Works Bombs,” ) not as a weapon, but rather in the same way that others make model- rockets or set off fireworks.
It’s difficult to say how this disturbing trend will play out. Perhaps teens will eventually get bored of Drano Bombs when the novelty wears off. In the meantime, if you see a suspicious bottle filled with liquid and a little bit of tin foil, don’t pick it up, call the police.
It would also be a good idea to tell your friends and family about this possible danger, especially those who do not have internet access.
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