Halloween chemical prank condemned by Royal Society of Chemistry

30 October 2012

The Royal Society of Chemistry today condemned a website which suggested a Halloween practical joke that could be very harmful.

A technology blog suggests adding a chemical to food or drink that could interact with common prescription drugs such as Prozac with potential serious consequences. 

This website piece said:

"Make 'em Pee Blue

"Methylene blue is often sold at pet stores, as it is a treatment for tropical fish diseases. Now, the interesting thing about methylene blue is that, if ingested, it can temporarily change a person's urine colour. The effects range from a faint green tint to a bright blue stream.

"For the vast majority of people, a tiny dose of methylene blue is harmless. So slip a tablespoon into a 2-litre bottle of cola and serve it at your bloody barbecue. That should give the guests something else to think about once they go home to wash off the ketchup.

"Note: Don't bother pulling this on anyone you could imagine wanting to sue you. In fact, none of these projects are meant for neighbours inclined toward litigation. People go to court over lesser offenses than blue pee."

The Royal Society of Chemistry science director Prof Jim Iley said:

"This kind of practical joke - spiking drinks with methylene blue (or any other chemical for that matter) - is irresponsible in the extreme. 

"Firstly, you are 'invading someone's space' by removing from them any control they have over the materials they ingest. 

"Secondly, it can have incredibly serious consequences. In this case, methylene blue has the ability to inhibit the oxidation of the neurochemical serotonin, and if this involved a person taking an SSRI drug (such as fluoxetine) it has the potential to bring about a serious condition called serotonin syndrome. 

"Of course, the effect will depend upon how much methylene blue is added to the drink, but it unlikely anyone carrying out this so-called prank is likely to worry about how much they are adding, or whether the people consuming the substance are on particular medications. Don't do it!"

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