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10 Things that You Thought were Natural but are Man-made

6. The smells of natural gas and liquefied petroleum gas are not natural as they are odorless. A clear liquid with a distinct odor is added to it so that we can smell gas leaks.

LPG
Image Credits: wikipedia, pixabay

Remember the smell of gas leaks? That is not natural. A clear liquid that has a distinct odor, Ethanethiol (ethyl mercaptan) which occurs as a minor component of petroleum, is added to odorless gasses like liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) to warn people of gas leaks. Had this not been the case, the leaking of LPG or natural gas would have posed serious risks.

Another odorizer, tert-Butylthiol (t-butyl mercaptan) or a related compound called theophane, is added to natural gas to minimize the risks of explosions (natural gas leaks occur often) and to prevent carbon monoxide inhalation.

(1, 2)

7. While fog is naturally occurring, smog is not. Smog is a serious, man-made problem in urban and industrial areas due to the excessive amounts of pollutants from vehicular and industrial emissions released in the air.

Smog
Image Credits: wili hybrid via flickr, pixabay

“Smog” is a word that is a combination of “smoke” and “fog.” In most urban and industrial areas. what we see in the winters or early in the morning is smog and not fog. It is a form of visible, air pollution that is made up of sulfur oxides, ground-level ozone, nitrogen oxides, CFCs, smoke, and dirt. This human-made smog is a result of vehicular and industrial emissions, fires, coal emissions, and other activities that increase air pollution.

Smog adversely affects the air quality index and is highly toxic for humans causing several illnesses. In people with heart and lung illnesses, smog can aggravate the conditions. It can decrease lung capacity, cause shortness of breath, eye and nose irritation, and many other ailments. (source)

8. Broad Breasted White turkeys that make up 99% of the 46 million turkeys consumed on Thanksgiving are bred through artificial insemination as they cannot mate naturally.

Turkeys
Image Credits: Scott Bauer via Wikimedia

The turkeys that form part of the traditional Thanksgiving dinners are not wild turkeys that are hunted and brought to your table. These Broad Breasted White turkeys are domesticated as the birds have lost their capacity to mate naturally as for decades now.

They have been chosen because they produce the most meat at the lowest cost. Artificial insemination has to be carried out to produce fertile eggs, and the birds are not usually kept beyond one year.

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There are heritage turkeys who can mate naturally and are domesticated versions of the wild turkeys as well, but they are not preferred as 99% of turkey dinners are made with Broad Breasted White turkeys in the United States. (1, 2)

9. Vanilla cannot be grown without human intervention. Vanilla plants need to be hand-pollinated, as natural pollination through bees is no longer possible. Most vanilla products contain vanillin which is produced synthetically from lignin, a polymer found in wood.

The vanilla orchid that is native to Mexico can be naturally pollinated through the presence of euglossine bees. But these bees cannot live outside Mexico, and even in that area where they do live, the chance of successful pollination is only 1%. So, all around the world, the vanilla plant has to be hand-pollinated.

Each flower has to be hand-pollinated within 12 hours of its blooming. A grass stem or something similar is used to lift the rostellum so the anther can be pressed against the stigma and pollination can occur. A vanilla vine remains productive for approximately 12 years.

Most artificial vanilla products that exist today contain vanillin which is often a byproduct of the process of paper-making. “Vanillin” is made from lignin, a natural polymer that is found in wood. Many products also use castoreum secreted from the castor sacs of mature leaves as vanilla flavoring. It is approved by the FDA. (source)

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10. The dangerous “killer bees” shown in a lot of movies are a manmade hybrid species of bees that exist in the wild because, in 1957, 26 swarms accidentally escaped quarantine and crossbred.

Africanized bee
Image Credits: Ktr101 via wikipedia, Jeffrey W. Lotz via wikipedia,

The Africanized bee, known as the “killer bee,” is a result of the crossbreeding between European bees and the African honey bee. Biologist Warwick E. Kerr interbred these bees while attempting to produce bees that gave more honey and would adapt better to tropical conditions.

They were housed in an apiary in São Paulo, Brazil in the hives. These hives were fitted with queen-excluder screens to prevent queen bees from getting out.

When, in October 1957, a visiting beekeeper noticed that the excluders were interfering with the movement of worker bees, he removed them allowing 26 swarms of these bees to be released into the wild. These swarms of Africanized bees eventually spread out to the Amazon basin, Central America, and Mexico and bred with other European bees.

In the 1970s, the bees that were considered to be an invasive species got a lot of media coverage and were featured in horror movies in the United States. That started a debate about how humans could alter the ecosystem. They have killed 1,000 humans so far and can chase a person for nearly 400 meters. (source)

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