“Ashish!” said Sal as he washed his glassware at the laboratory sink, “You look like shit!”
“I feel like shit, man!” said Ashish. “I’ve gained eight pounds in the last week, but I’m not fatter in the slightest: I’m just heavier. And I’m nauseous and dizzy, and my hands are shaking and I feel cold and clammy.”
“Maybe you’re dehydrated? Drink your wada.” Sal pointed at the bottle in Ashish’s hand.
“I’ve been drinking water like crazy,” said Ashish as he refilled his bottle from the spigot. “It’s not helping man. I think I’m dying or something!”
“Hmmm,” said Sal. “You will die before long, I suspect, if you keep drinking the deuterium oxide.”
An entry to this week’s Friday Fictioneers photo prompt. The exact quantity of deuterium oxide one would have to drink to actually die has long been a favorite cafeteria conversation among organic chemists. You would probably have to replace a substantial portion of your bodies water for it to be fatal: Possibly as much as 25% to 50%. Heavy water is a little more than 10% heavier than regular water, so you would gain a bit of weight without becoming any larger (your density would increase). Eventually, deuterium would become incorporated into various enzymes and proteins and your body would start to shut down. If you went in for an MRI, the hospital staff monitoring the MRI results might be surprised that you have no brain. Deuterium is invisible to an MRI. Since an MRI ordinarily is looking at protons (hydrogens), and since deuterium would replace a substantial portion of the hydrogen in your body in an extreme case of deuterium oxide poisoning, your deuterated brain would appear to an MRI to be a little faint. Although you would normally find deuterium oxide in an organic laboratory, you wouldn’t find big jugs of the stuff, so this story is a bit far-fetched in that regard. Still, when I saw this week’s photo prompt, I could imagine the photo being of a water dispenser in a laboratory of some kind, and I couldn’t resist the deuterium oxide angle. 🙂