Trivia

Hard

Which Of These Chemicals Is Considered The Most Bitter Compound In Existence?

Amarogentin
Denatonium
Isohumulone
Quinidine
A pair of lime green spray bottles.
Handlegirl/Wikimedia

Answer: Denatonium

The human sense of taste is quite refined and there are all manner of bitter flavors in the world that we often incorporate into our diets for novelty, like packing sour candy with citric acid, or go out of our way to mask, like when British soldiers created the gin and tonic drink in order to mask the bitter taste of the anti-malarial quinine they had to consume.

But when it comes to bitter compounds, however, the bitterness of things like citric acid and quinine have nothing on denatonium. Discovered accidentally during anesthetic research conducted by pharmaceutical company MacFarlan Smith in the 1950s (the chemical structure of it is very similar to lidocaine, a widely used local anesthetic), it proved more bitter than any known compound. It is so bitter that a dilution of 0.01 parts per million (the saccharide form) to 0.05 parts per million (the benzoate form) is detectable to humans and 10 parts per million is unbearably bitter to the point that the consumer of a liquid laced with even a trace amount of denatonium would scarcely be able to even swallow the liquid in question.

And that right there, lacing liquids, is exactly how denatonium, under the trade name “Bitrex”, finally became a widely used chemical after languishing unused for years after its discovery. After a rise in children being hospitalized after ingesting household chemicals in the 1980s, some companies started including a tiny amount of Bitrex in their products to deter accidental consumption. Still, despite widespread use in Europe, very few U.S. companies used it. A grass roots campaign by a woman named Lynn Tylczak caught the attention of U.S. media which, in turn, led to much higher adoption rates.

Today denatonium/Bitrex is found in thousands of products ranging from harsh household cleaning products to shampoos and soaps to antifreeze, all in a bid to keep children and animals from ingesting dangerous chemicals. In such cases, an ounce (perhaps more of an attogram) of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Trivia

Hard

The Classic Mentos + Diet Coke Science Class Experiment Is Driven By?

Trivia

Easy

The Location Of The World’s Tallest What, Is Kept Secret?

Trivia

Easy

Which Class Of Invertebrates Is Considered The Most Intelligent?

Trivia

Hard

Coffee Breaks First Appeared At A Company Located In?

Trivia

Easy

Military Tanks Were Originally Known As?

Trivia

Very Hard

The Practice Of Firing A Purposefully Inaccurate Shot In A Pistol Duel Is Known As?

Trivia

Hard

Which Of These Groups Was Most Influential In The Early Adoption Of Paved Roads?

Trivia

Hard

To Protect Their Unique Makeup Styles, Professional Clowns Cleverly Copyrighted Which Of These?

Trivia

Hard

The Most Volcanically Active Body In Our Solar System Is?

Trivia

Hard

Long Before Virtual Game Achievements Were A Thing, Activision Would Mail Gamers?