The Loh Down On Science

Wasabi Alarm

How a lump of wasabi may someday save your life.

Wasabi--it's not just for sashimi-shoyu, any more!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

And on a HOT new development in home warning systems. It's thanks to Makoto Imai of Shiga University of Medical Science in Japan. He's harnessing the power of wasabi--that dollop of eye-watering green paste from the sushi bar--for good and not evil.

Like Western horseradish, wasabi contains chemicals called isothiocyanates that give it that signature bite and flavor. These compounds can bring wasabi where no other condiment has gone before: into the business of saving lives.

In collaboration with a perfume company, Imai invented a smoke detector for the deaf that emits an alarming and pungent horseradish odor when it goes off.

The wasabi alarm was tested on fourteen slumbering subjects, four of whom were deaf. Thirteen of them jolted awake less than two minutes after the detector was triggered. And the one who slept through it? Had a stuffy nose.

Next up for people who REALLY sleep like logs: a smoke detector that hits you over the head with Bratwurst! That's what Germany's coming back with! Research suggests.


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