Wonders of Chemistry: 40 Remarkable Facts About Chemical Compounds

26Old Person Smell

Old Person Smell

The signature “Old Person Smell” is actually caused by a chemical compound called 2-nonenal. Odor emitted by humans undergoes distinct stages based on chemical changes initiated through the aging process.

27. The scientific name of the fruit Monstera Deliciosa literally means Delicious Monster. It can cause severe throat and skin irritation unless it is 100% ripe, due to the presence of oxalic acid (a.k.a. rust cleaner) in the unripe fruit. Once its green outer scales fall off, it is safe to eat and tastes like a mix of pineapple, banana, and coconut.

28. Citric Acid which is one of the most common food additives (used in sodas, ice cream, processed sweets, cider, baby food), is usually not made from lemons. It is made by feeding sugar to black mold through an industrial process.

29. The smell of the air after a storm is caused by Geosmin. It is a chemical compound released by dead soil bacteria. Humans are hypersensitive to it, capable of detecting it at a concentration of 5 parts per trillion. It is theorized that in our evolutionary past this helped us seek out water.

30. In 1800, chemists working with willow bark extracts discovered that salicylic acid present in it is responsible for its analgesic (pain-reducing) and antipyretic (fever-reducing) effects. In 1893, a German chemist converted salicylic acid to its less acidic ester, known as Aspirin.



NaCl is the chemical formula for table salt. It does not actually describe the chemical formula of a molecule. It is actually the ratio of sodium atoms to chlorine atoms in a sodium chloride crystal.

32. Butyric acid is an oily, colorless liquid with an unpleasant odor. It is found in animal fat and plant oils, bovine milk, breast milk, butter, parmesan cheese, body odor, and vomit.

33. Nitrogen trichloride, a.k.a. trichloramine, is responsible for that common swimming pool smell. This yellow, oily, pungent-smelling and explosive liquid is most commonly encountered as a byproduct of chemical reactions between ammonia-derivatives and chlorine (byproduct of urine/sweat and chlorine).

34. GenX is a known toxic chemical which is being added onto non-stick pans, after a similar toxic chemical PFOA was banned, as it was causing cancers and birth defects in human population.

35. Orthocarbonic Acid is also known as “Hitler’s Acid” because its molecular geometry resembles a swastika.

36Beer Hops

Beer Hops

Beer Hops naturally produce an acid that can kill off a parasitic mite known to annihilate entire colonies of bees. Hops have shown such promise in helping Colony Collapse Disorder, that the EPA has even approved their use as a biochemical miticide.

37. Fenugreek contains an extremely potent aromatic compound called solotone. When consumed in heavy amounts, it can cause a sweet maple-y odor in sweat and urine.

38. Potatoes contain toxic compounds known as glycoalkaloids, the most prevalent of which are solanine and chaconine. Glycoalkaloid poisoning may cause headaches, diarrhea, cramps, and, in severe cases, coma and death. Poisoning from cultivated potato varieties, however, is very rare.

39. Cadaverine is a toxic chemical formed by dead tissue breaking down. It is the source of the corpse smell and it also gives semen its taste.

40. There is a compound named Erythritol, which tastes like sugar, but doesn’t affect blood sugar levels, or causes tooth decay. It also has 95% less calories than sugar.