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Syn-propanethial-S-oxide is a volatile gas that triggers the tears when an onion is cut. As onions are sliced, cells are broken, allowing enzymes called alliinases to break down amino acid sulfoxides and generate sulfenic acids . Sulfenic acids are unstable and spontaneously rearrange into syn-propanethial-S-oxide. The gas dissipates through the air and eventually reaches the eye, where it reacts with the water to form a dilute solution of sulfuric acid. This acid irritates the nerve endings in the eye, making them sting. Tear glands produce tears to dilute and flush out the irritant.
Syn-propanethial-S-oxide has a chemical formula of C3H6OS. It is a slightly flammable gas and can be controlled by burning a candle near a person cutting onions. Leeks do not contain as much of the chemical as onions.
|This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Syn-propanethial-S-oxide". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.|