No evidence ‘chemtrails’ are responsible for new chemical found in atmosphere

7 June 2022
What was claimed

A new, potentially harmful, chemical found in the atmosphere is linked to ‘chemtrails’.

Our verdict

There is no evidence that the chemicals called hydrotrioxides found in the atmosphere have anything to do with the chemtrails conspiracy theory.

Hundreds of people have shared a post on Facebook which links “chemtrails” to reports of a new substance found in the Earth’s atmosphere. 

The post includes a screenshot of a MailOnline article, with the headline: “Entirely new kind of ‘highly reactive’ chemical is found in Earth’s atmosphere - and it could be triggering respiratory and heart diseases and contributing to global warming, scientists claim.”

The article, published on 27 May, makes no mention of chemtrails, and there is no evidence to support the claim in the post’s caption that it is related to chemtrails. 

The article is based on research by scientists at the University of Copenhagen, who were able to prove the existence of hydrotrioxides—very reactive chemical compounds containing three oxygen atoms and one hydrogen atom attached to each other— in the atmosphere. 

Hydrotrioxides, were described in the university’s press release as “a completely new class of chemical compounds”. It also said the research team suspect these compounds are able to penetrate into tiny airborne particles, known as aerosols, which can lead to respiratory and cardiovascular diseases and can impact the climate, although more research is needed.

Professor Henrik Grum Kjærgaard, senior author of the study, said: “The type of compounds we discovered are unique in their structure. And, because they are extremely oxidizing, they most likely bring a host of effects that we have yet to uncover.”

Although the Facebook post links this discovery to chemtrails, fellow senior author of the study Dr Torsten Berndt told Full Fact: “I don't see any connection of our findings to the composition of Chemtrails”.

He added it was “highly speculative” that the chemicals required to create hydrotrioxides would exist at high enough levels in the aircraft exhausts.

The word chemtrail is used to misleadingly describe the white lines that appear in the sky behind planes, which proponents of the theory claim are being deliberately released and contain chemicals which either poison the population or control the weather. 

Rather than being deliberately filled with harmful chemicals, these white lines are actually condensation trails (often referred to as contrails)—long lines of cloud which are formed when water vapour produced at high altitudes by aeroplane engines freezes as it is released into the cold air surrounding the aeroplane.

Depending on the humidity of the air, the frozen vapour can either change quickly from a solid to a gas (meaning the lines disappear after a few minutes), or remain as water droplets or ice crystals which lead to white lines which can last for several hours. 

Through our work fact checking online misinformation we have recently seen an increase in the number of posts referring to the chemtrails conspiracy theory, and have written about them several times before

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