Ukrainian student killed by exploding chewing gum

A 25-year-old chemistry student died when he chewed chemically treated gum that exploded and blew off part of his face.

Are you ready for the TSA to ban chewing gum?

"A loud pop was heard from the student's room," the portal said, citing an aide to the city's police chief. "When his relatives entered the room they saw that the lower part of the young man's face had been blown off."

A forensic examination established that the chewing gum was covered with an unidentified chemical substance, thought to be some type of explosive material.

Police questioning revealed that the student had a bizarre habit of chewing gum after dunking it into citric acid. On his table, police found both citric acid packets and a similar-looking unidentified substance, believed to be some kind of explosive material.

Ukrainian student killed by exploding chewing gum (Via Arbroath)


  1. WONKA: That’s exploding candy for your enemies. Great idea,
    isn’t it. Not ready yet, though, still too weak. Needs
    more gelignite. (He puts sneakers into a pot.)

    MR. SALT: What’s that for?

    WONKA: Gives it a little kick.

  2. Strictly a guess – picric acid. I don’t know how close the spelling would be in Ukrainian, but…
    It is a yellowish solid, used as a reagent in some chem test I have forgotten about. It is an unstable contact explosive. Periodically, a forgotten old bottle is found in a college or high school chem lab, and the building is evacuated until the bomb squad shows up.

  3. Police questioning revealed that the student had a bizarre habit of chewing gum after dunking it into citric acid.

    Um… right… this is what the kid said because “trying to invent exploding gum to feed to the bullies in my chemistry lab” might have earned him a prison sentence rather than sympathy (or rather, sympathy followed by whirling fingers and cuckoo gestures when his back was turned)…

    1. Umm, I don’t think you worry too much about a prison sentence after you’re dead. Unless you’re Catholic, I suppose, but what you tell the police won’t help with that one.

      1. Well, also, You can’t answer any police questioning after you’re dead, so I’m guessing they’re talking about friends and relatives there.

        Obviously the kid, being a chem student, had a kick out of making his own exploding gum, and miscalculated the concentration levels on his last one. A mistake he won’t be making again.

        Don’t try this at home, kids.

      2. I don’t know how, but I missed the fact that he was killed when I first read the post. I had assumed that he was injured, and had told the police himself about his “habit.”

        Can I retract my comment as poor taste (assuming this is not an urban legend)?

  4. I think a chemical dependency to citric acid is the real issue here. Didn’t his parents see the signs, lemon breath, cringing in the face?

  5. YES, I am ready for the TSA to ban chewing gum. If they are going to ban something, it might as well be something that actually worsens my flying experience. I would trade the current toothepaste ban for a gum ban any day.

    Of course, what should actually happen is the TSA should stop banning half its silly list, including both gum and toothepaste. Then the airlines should ban gum voluntarily.

  6. Come on, this has every hallmark of an urban legend.

    Seemingly innocuous item turns suddenly deadly? Check.

    Mysterious substance that isn’t named is the culprit? Check.

    Blows his entire jaw off? How in the world can a single piece of gum, or even chemical coating on a piece of gum, cause that? So: Explosion utterly disproportionate to realism: Check.

    Takes place in Russia, reported by a Russian news agency: I don’t know much about the Russian media, but I do know that they were reporting that a man had a fir tree growing in his lungs when it was entirely probable that he just aspirated a cutting. So yeah, entirely non-credible source: Check.

    It’s a bogus story, in my opinion.

    -Darren MacLennan

    1. Takes place in Russia, reported by a Russian news agency: I don’t know much about the Russian media

      Or apparently about countries or maps. Ukraine is a whole separate country of its own.

      1. Or apparently about countries or maps. Ukraine is a whole separate country of its own.

        Don’t be so mean! You’re right though, Ukraine is its own country, and has it’s own TLD – .ua; this story linked to which uses the Russian TLD. The site bills itself as “Top Russian news and analysis online.” I think referring to the Russian media is more than fair.

      2. –Or apparently about countries or maps. Ukraine is a whole separate country of its own.–

        Hey, in my mind, the Soviet Union never died. It keeps rewatchings of _Red Dawn_ more entertaining.

        -Darren MacLennan

  7. I’m sad I don’t get to be the first one to point out the rather likely possibility of this being a hoax.

  8. In America, the first thing they teach you in chemistry class is that you never put ANYTHING that’s been in the lab in your mouth. Even if it’s delicious candy. In fact, ESPECIALLY if it’s delicious candy, as if there’s candy in a chemistry lab it’s probably there so someone can horrify you by showing you how strangely it acts in certain conditions.

  9. Yeah, probably a hoax. But what’s bizarre about dipping gum in citric acid? Maybe he likes very sour gum. I’ve got a huge bag of citric acid in my kitchen; I use it as a flavoring.

  10. I’m going to call shenanigans.

    I’m not particularly well versed in chemistry, nor am I an expert on the Russian press… but my Skeptic-Sense is tingling (TM).

    I see that some of the other articles linked to on Ria Novosti are about alien abductions, the coming ice age, baby-eating babies… Just not too confident in their fact checking. It also seems that every couple of years, I’m reading about the entirety of the Russian press reporting some hoax or guerrilla advertising as fact.

    There’s also questionable reporting in that no names are given. The victim, the parents, the “forensics examiner,” and the police are all anonymous.

    My limited knowledge of chemistry tells me that something which would be so unstable as to explode in trace amounts with such force to actually do lethal damage to bone, muscle and flesh would a) rarely be found in large enough quantities to actually *do* damage; b) be pretty damn well known to forensics experts; and c) not be easily transportable… especially to a private residence (the report says it happened in his parents’ home).

    Of course, we’ll never hear if it was true or not, because it’s more fun to think that spiders really can explode from a cactus and kill you, baby sitters on acid really do put turkeys to bed and cook babies, and that our cousin’s boyfriend’s mother’s friend’s daughter really did find a snake in her jacket from Burlington Coat Factory.

  11. @14:

    I refer you to

    There’s plenty of stuff around that will happily explode and do quite a bit of damage, even if you use pretty small amounts of it.

    I also guess that it probably was picric acid. This stuff was used in biology to create long lasting samples of bacteria, until people found it too unstable and explosive when dried up. And it was a major player in the Halifax explosion … (I refer you to wikipedia on that one).

  12. Could everyone PLEASE stop pretending that Russia has already reconquered Ukraine, and wait until they actually do it?


    Ukraine was an SSR, yes. But “former SSR” and “part of Russia” are not the same thing.

  13. Yes, but it doesn’t loose its flavor on the bedpost overnight. By the way, even if your mother says “don’t chew it” _DO_NOT_ swallow it in spite.

  14. To all those saying the explosion couldn’t have happened based solely on the purported amount of substance: Yes it could.

    Think about silver fulminate for example, it’s the substance used in those pop-its or TNT snaps or whatever they’re called. They’re the ones that look like little white spitballs that pop when you drop them. The amount of explosive is miniscule. Think: Silver is expensive, and you’re buying a bunch for what? A buck?

    The rest is small granules that cause friction and agitate the substance when dropped. The amount of substance has little intuitive connection to energy content. Hell, you can build an extremely destructive nuclear weapon with only (I believe) five to fifteen kilograms of fissile material. IIRC, Little Boy was only 60% efficient. Granted, that’s nuclear forces and not electromagnetic chemical bonds, but it just goes to show that intuition won’t tell you anything about energy content.

    It could well have been picric acid as some are saying, I’ve personally never worked with it. I doubt citric acid would’ve done anything- especially since he’d been doing it for a while with no ill effect. It’s a strange habit, but citric acid is probably already added to some gum anyway. It’s a pretty common additive.

  15. Fett@29: I can’t believe I didn’t think of him! :-)

    Anon@28: Haha! I used to listen to that when I was a kid.

  16. Q is going to be mad that Bond let someone else get ahold of his chewing gum…

    Also, Brainspore is my newest hero.

  17. Yoiks! First Westar/Palapa and now picric acid… is BoingBoing trawling my past lives?

    When the Academy of Natural Sciences knocked down their old stacks building, the walls of the malacology labs were shaking and jars of pickled mollusks (where is Takuan, anyway?) were walking off the shelves. Once we got the malacologists to calm down enough so that we could understand what they were yelling about, we found out there were hundred-year-old jars full of picric acid down there, and their entire staff was dancing frantically around in front of the shelves shoving jars back into place to try to keep the building from being blown up.

    Needless to say the contents of the shelves got a serious auditing after the demolition stopped, and the dangerous stuff got wrapped up carefully and trundled away in a little red kids’ wagon to more secure storage.

    I don’t know if the kid chewed picric acid, but that’s the first thing that popped into my head too. Of course, if he was playing with picric acid crystals he was most likely going to get blown up one way or another. I guess it’s really quite likely a hoax, though.

  18. >Are you ready for the TSA to ban chewing gum?

    Nah, Mark. They won’t ban it until AFTER someone tries to blow up a plane with it.

  19. It would make my day if gum was banned on flights. I have a strong phobia of chewing gum – I can freak out quite badly if someone chews it anywhere near me. If there’s someone chewing gum on the train I take to work, I can just move into the next carriage. On a plane, getting off in mid flight is considerably more inconvenient.

  20. Guido: maybe it was not the chewing gum…what about, that he had some enemies and the wrong dentist ?!?! Or the eyplosion came from the experimentators table and not from inside… but if it was the gum, maybe with tannerit it could be a strong explosive, than could be also a suicide …

  21. Whether it is fake or not should not stop us from cooking up a plot to blow up airplanes.

    Chewing gum + citric acid = explosion.

    Therefore, bring the chewing gum on board in your mouth (the TSA will now start searching the inside of your mouth), and an orange in your hand. When you are on board, you mix them, then pound it with the heel of your shoe. If you are not allowed to carry the orange on board, you can use the orange juice from the on-board kitchen.

  22. Yes, it’s probably a hoax, but, what a great story to tell students in chemistry classes to make them think before they put things in their mouths.

  23. that iz crazy n why did he put acid on his gum that is really dum why would he do something like that some people these days

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