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Why do Onions make us cry?

chopping onions cryingDon't you just abhor peeling and chopping onions because they can make us cry? Actually, it's not the pungent odor of the onion that makes us cry, but the gas that it releases.

Onion bulbs contain oil, which contains sulfur, an irritant to both our noses and eyes. Chopping an onion releases a gas, propanethiol S-oxide, which then couples with the enzymes in the onion to emit a passive sulfur compound. When this upwardly mobile gas encounters the water produced by the tear ducts in our eyelids, it produces sulfuric acid.

As a natural response to the caustic acid, our eyes automatically blink and produce tears to flush out the sulfuric acid.

Matters get worse when we try to rub our eyes with our hands that handled onions and are coated with the sulfuric acid producing oil. Instead of relief, our eyes get even more irritated.

Some say that chewing a gum, sucking on a piece of bread or lighting a candle while peeling onions would prevent teary eyes but the only effective remedy for ridding the onion of its pungent, irritating oil is to boil it, not to slice it or dice it.

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