Bromoacetone - Don't mess with exotic red alga seaweed!

  • violent lachrymator (think tear gas and pepper spray) that can be easily synthesized in a laboratory (mix a little bromine with a little acetone, natch)
  • also present naturally in a certain species of red alga seaweed (Asparagopsis taxiformis) apparently found only in the ocean waters surrounding Hawaii (sounds like it should be a quest item in some sort of adventure book or something)
    • the seaweed is called limu kohu (supreme seaweed) by native Hawaiians and is apparently considered so supreme because of its enticing aroma and flavour
  • employed as a chemical weapon during World War I by both sides and has also seen use as a riot control agent, but this has been discontinued due to its relatively high toxicity compared to newer agents
  • as bromine serves as a good leaving group, bromoacetone can be used as a reagent in organic synthesis reactions, including those by which drugs are produced
  • rapidly turns purple upon exposure to light or water
Hazardous Substances Data Bank - Bromoacetone

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