Sunday, March 14, 2004 (AP)

SoCal city falls victim to Internet hoax, considers banning items made with water

(03-14) 03:06 PST ALISO VIEJO, Calif. (AP) -- City officials were so concerned about the potentially dangerous properties of dihydrogen monoxide that they considered banning foam cups after they learned the chemical was used in their production.

Then they learned that dihydrogen monoxide -- H2O for short -- is the scientific term for water.

"It's embarrassing," said City Manager David J. Norman. "We had a paralegal who did bad research."

The paralegal apparently fell victim to one of the many official looking Web sites that have been put up by pranksters to describe dihydrogen monoxide as "an odorless, tasteless chemical" that can be deadly if accidentally inhaled.

As a result, the City Council of this Orange County suburb had been scheduled to vote next week on a proposed law that would have banned the use of foam containers at city-sponsored events. Among the reasons given for the ban were that they were made with a substance that could "threaten human health and safety."

The measure has been pulled from the agenda, although Norman said the city may still eventually ban foam cups.

"Our main concern is with the Aliso Creek watershed," Norman said. "If you get Styrofoam into the water and it breaks apart, it's virtually impossible to clean up."