|MadSci Network: Chemistry|
Sorry it took so long to answer, I've been out in the field scuba diving for sea snakes ;-) Here in Australia, all the surf-life saving huts are stocked with vinegar, all boats have them on board (at least in the tropical waters) and many people actually carry it in the boot of their car. The reason is quite simple, it may end up saving a life. The box jellyfish is one of, if the the most, most toxically venomous animals on earth and is the only jellyfish that regularily kills people. The stinging cells on the tentacles are neutralised by dilute ethanoic acid (that is all vinegar is, just a diluted solution of ethanoic acid). Neutralisation of the stinging cells is essential before the tentacles are removed, otherwise the act of removal may result in further envenomation. Interestingly, alcohol causes the cells to fire. This is interesting since ethanoic acid (vinegar) is simply the acidic form of the ethanol molecule. Ethanol is the alcohol that is in wine, etc.. Its amazing how a very small change in a molecule can have profound differences in activity. As for the urine use, first time I've heard that one. The vinegar is used to prevent further stings but has no effect on the stings that have already occured, thus the urine action is not a substitute per se. Cheers, Bryan
Try the links in the MadSci Library for more information on Chemistry.