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“Dihydrogen monoxide” redirects here. For the H2O molecule, see Properties of water.
Water consists of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom.
The dihydrogen monoxide hoax involves calling water by an unfamiliar name, “dihydrogen monoxide”, followed by a listing of real effects of this chemical, often presented as an argument that this substance should be regulated, labeled as hazardous, or banned. The hoax is intended to illustrate how the lack of scientific literacy and an exaggerated analysis can lead to misplaced fears. “Dihydrogen monoxide”, shortened to “DHMO”, is a name for water that is consistent with basic rules of chemical nomenclature, but is not among the names published by IUPAC and is almost exclusively used in humorous context.
A popular version of the hoax was created by Eric Lechner, Lars Norpchen and Matthew Kaufman, housemates while attending University of California, Santa Cruz in 1990, revised by Craig Jackson (also a UC Santa Cruz student) in 1994, and brought to widespread public attention in 1997 when Nathan Zohner, a 14-year-old student, gathered petitions to ban “DHMO” as the basis of his science project, titled “How Gullible Are We?”.
“Dihydrogen monoxide” may sound dangerous to those with a limited knowledge of chemistry or who hold to an ideal of a “chemical-free” life (chemophobia). The only familiar common usage of the term “monoxide” is in the highly toxic gas “carbon monoxide”, and the simplified term “monoxide poisoning” is commonly used to refer to poisoning by this colorless and odorless substance.
The joke has been frequently extended over the years. For example, a material safety data sheet—a list of information about potentially dangerous materials used in research and industry—has been created for it.
I’ve put this here because Dave also responded with a link: http://www.dhmo.org/facts.html (which does outline the supposed dangers of .... water… as a chemical)
See also: http://www.snopes.com/science/dhmo.asp