Scare Tactics on Facebook: BVO

Lately it seems like Facebook is trying to scare us all to death with ominous warnings about brominated vegetable oil, deadly cake mix, killer brown recluse spiders and child-abducting men in silver cars, or cops who beat up civilians and might get their jobs back.

Then there’s the “fun facts” type posts about the main ingredients of WD-40.

The problem? All the stories about these things are only partially true at best. Each one leaves out vital pieces of information or includes vast swathes of incorrect information.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t repost information when you get it or when you see it on Facebook, but please take the 30 seconds it requires to check it out on or otherwise verify it.

Don’t add to the vast array of bad “information” out there. Don’t help make the world a little more ignorant. It only takes a moment to determine some of these things are not accurate.

Brominated Vegetable Oil

What the warning says: I’ve seen two warnings about this substance, which is found in Mountain Dew. One of them attempted to terrify people by asking “Do you feed your children flame retardants?” To which the answer is, of course, “Yes,” because water is a very effective flame retardant, and it is required to keep the human body functioning.

The other warning calls BVO a “poisonous, corrosive chemical.” The same can just as accurately be said about water: it can act as a poison in large enough quantities and its corrosive action is easy to see if you leave an iron object in the water for a while. And of course, everything is made out of chemicals, from good old H20 (water) to the oxygen we breathe, O2. (Oh, and that oxygen is explosive, by the way.)

What the warning leaves out: No studies have shown serious health issues caused by moderate consumption of beverages containing BVO at the concentrations typically used in those products.

That said: there have indeed been cases in which people have suffered ill effects from BVO in soft drinks, so there’s a grain of truth in the fear-mongering. However, those people were drinking 2-8 liters of soda in a day.

Dose makes the poison, and there are no toxic substances, only toxic doses. In sufficient amounts, water is a poison too, and excessive amounts of vitamin D can be very harmful. And drinking 2-8 liters of soda in a day is probably not a good idea anyway, BVO or no BVO. Caution and moderation is definitely called for; pouring out all your Mountain Dew really isn’t.

More information:,

2 thoughts on “Scare Tactics on Facebook: BVO

  1. I find that you are feeding into the ignorance of Americans just as much as the so-called “fear mongering” posts you write about. Instead of finding your information on snopes, please dig deeper and do more research on these subjects. There are harmful substances allowed into our food by the American FDA- substances that are illegal in Europe. Cops are beating up and arresting civilians for no reason other that the fact that they feel like it. I find your ignorant rant atrocious and I can’t believe my local newspaper’s website has your blog on its home page. America is under attack by uninformed people like you.

    • I have done research on several of these subjects beyond Snopes.

      However, the Facebook posts all contain inaccuracies and untruths as well as half-truths. They do not contain any information about tests done. They do not include any information about the documented actual effects of any of the substances, or any indication of the dosages at which they may be dangerous. They also do not encourage people to do research or be aware of the facts, nor do they link to any science involving the substances. All they do is scare people.

      It’s very, very important to discuss dosages when speaking about potentially toxic materials. As I noted in the post, water is a poison. Vitamin D will make you sick if you take too much. But we need both vitamin D and water. Arsenic, mercury and lead are all in the natural environment, even in areas where there is no industrialization. Our own bodies make formaldehyde and many fruits naturally produce cyanide.

      The amount at which substances become toxic or dangerous isn’t a minor detail; it is critical. The world is made of chemicals.

      People need to be aware of what’s in their food, and they also need to be able to interpret that knowledge. My post specifically calls for caution and moderation and requests that people do research before spreading information that may be false. I stand behind that.

      And while there certainly are bad cops, the Facebook post I referred to was about one specific person who was not in fact going to be reinstated. The post was out of date, yet was presented as if it were current, and as if this particular cop was in danger of getting his job back. And he wasn’t.

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