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Why Do Some CDRs Smell Like Almonds? 65

bertok asks: "I have several spindles of CD-Rs of various brands that I use at home and work, and some of them have a very strong almond odour when opened. Does anyone know what causes that? I know that Hydrogen Cyanide has a distinctive almond odour, but so does a range of other organic chemicals. Can any Slashdot readers with a chemistry background enlighten us as to the possible source of the smell?"
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Why Do Some CDRs Smell Like Almonds?

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    This is just another April fools right?

    mmmm, cynanide laced CDs.

    Those evil terrorists!

    You ARE kidding right?

    • No, I've actually wondered the same thing myself for a while (though it's possible that Taco thought it was bogus and would be a great post to use as April 1 material).

      When I open a new, shrinkwrapped (and therefore sealed) spindle of CDs, most brands have a strong smell that is very similar to that of almonds. It goes away if you leave the thing open for a while, but if you seal a spindle for a while, you can smell it a bit when you open it later. (Presumably, the scent is coming from some sort of decom
  • by Anonymous Coward
    In Soviet Russia CDRS smells like YOU!
  • by Anonymous Coward the media industry to slowly poison all the people who "steal" music ;-)

    The flaw in their plan is that sales still won't go up cos they've just killed potential consumers!
  • by kruetz ( 642175 ) on Tuesday April 01, 2003 @09:32AM (#5637560) Journal
    Does anyone else have flashbacks to Austin Powers 2, when the assassin Achmed (or some similar Arabian name) falls over the edge of the cliff...

    Aaah! My leg is broken! The bone is sticking through the skin, and the wound is smelling of almonds, which is not good!

    I'll try to stand on my other leg ... aah! now my other legs is broken!

    To summarise, don't touch CDRs that smell of almonds. They are "not good". In fact, they will probably break your legs and cause you tremendous pain.

    Thank God we can learn everything we need to know from the movies.
  • Lacquer (Score:2, Interesting)

    There is a lacquer on all CD-Rs that has a distinct smell. I don't recall it smelling like almonds though ... I remember it being rather pungent and gross.
  • because... (Score:5, Funny)

    by ptaff ( 165113 ) on Tuesday April 01, 2003 @09:34AM (#5637568) Homepage
    Because CD-R, like almonds, get tastier when burned a bit...
    • Holy crap, you're right! They even TASTE like almonds, only crunchier! Oh man this makes a great snack food. Whoa ... not feeling so good all of a sudden ...
  • It's a plot by the RIAA to finally rid themselves
    of those troublesome pirates.
  • My TDK CD-Rs smell like almonds! Thank goodness I'm not the only one to wonder about this! Have you also noticed that, once burned, the smell goes away. Magic disappearing almonds...
  • might ask why *almonds* smell like
    almonds. And people *eat* that stuff!
  • OSQ (Score:4, Funny)

    by Hell O'World ( 88678 ) on Tuesday April 01, 2003 @09:59AM (#5637677)
    My cat's breath smell's like catfood!
  • by one9nine ( 526521 ) on Tuesday April 01, 2003 @10:00AM (#5637684) Journal
    Does anybody's wireless router smell like peanut butter? Maybe it's just me.
    • My VCR smelled like peanut butter, until I found the sandwitch that my niece had tried to "play."

      • I tried to "play" a sandwhich once.
        After 3 hours of painful surgery, the doctor made his point and I haven't thought of trying that again.
        I hope your niece learned her lesson too.

        I also hope she didn't get the nasty infection that I did.
    • Not peanut butter, but if it smells like burnt peanuts, then it's most likely a blown capacitor. Burnt peanuts smell nothing like peanut butter, so I don't think you should be in a hurry to open 'er up. but you never know...
    • My linksys router smells like peanut butter, I always figured it was due to the funky plastics. None of my other equipment has a food-like smell.
  • benzaldehyde (Score:4, Informative)

    by mpweasel ( 539631 ) <mprzyjazny&gmail,com> on Tuesday April 01, 2003 @10:10AM (#5637735) Homepage
    IANAChemist, but the son of one, and my best guess is that it's benzaldehyde left over from the production of the plastic.
    htt p://
  • I don't have a link to back this up, but I'm sure one of the CDR manufacturer websites can verify this. Cyanide is used as part of the dye in certain CDR's - that would explain the Almond smell.

  • Or even CD writers.. All those mass produced without copy protection.. need to be gotten rid of somehow.
  • There is no cyanide. (Score:5, Informative)

    by TitaniumFox ( 467977 ) on Tuesday April 01, 2003 @11:10AM (#5638016) Journal
    ...and quit spreading misinformation.

    Firstly, a cyano group is simply a carbon atom bonded to a nitrogen atom with a triple bond. In the term cyanide, the ide simply identifies the CN as an ion. Hydrogen cyanide (HCN) is the colorless, poisonous gas that may, or may not smell like almonds. (Go ahead...smell it.)

    The blue dye you are thinking about is called cyanine, which is simply the common name for 1,1-diisoamyl-4,4-cyanine iodide.

    If you go here [], you will see a structure of cyanine. The only nitrogen present in the chemical is firmly rooted in a benzine ring (called pyridine). It's not going anywhere, and there's certainly no cyanide.

    Additionally, the other dye used in CDRs is called phthalocyanine. Structure here []. As you can see, the molecule is circular and the CN groups are in rings and in bonds between the ring structures. No hydrogen cyanide will be evolved.

    While this doesn't answer why CDRs smell like almonds after/while they are being burned (do they? I've never smelled that), it does cast away some of the misperceptions.

    • That was a little harsh, wasn't it? The submitter wasn't stating that the blue dye was HCN; you just read that into his words and got cranky about it. For all you know his CD-Rs aren't even the blue-dye kind. Perhaps you routinely hear some lame urban legend about confusion between HCN and cyanine, but that doesn't mean that everyone who asks about "almonds" and something blue is similarly confused and needs to be chastised as "spreading misinformation".

      • Cranky? Heh, heh. Perhaps. Perhaps I had also been in the organic lab quite a bit, in addition to studying for an AdvOrg test. The crankyness wasn't directed towards the submitter of the article, however. The submitter of the article was right on. They asked a rather interesting question, too. The misinformation jibe was most certainly directed towards those who answered incorrectly, making the "It's cyanide" connection and not bothering to back it up or do even the most basic of research behind the que
  • bartok, checked out your journal entry on kuro5hin - in answer to your question there - bitter almonds are just another variety of almond - with a bit more cyanide than the 'sweet' variety.

    you know, being able to smell cyanide is a genetic trait, and that bodies of people poisoned by it smell like bitter almond.

    • Are bitter almonds edible? I've read (in Guns Germs and Steel [] if you're interested) that almonds in their pre-domesticated wild form actually have enough cyanide in them to be really poisonous. Domesticating them would have involved somehow finding some mutant almonds that didn't kill you, and breeding them for generations until they got some non-poisonous almond trees that would reliably breed more non-poisonous almond trees. I guess it's not so much that cyanide smells like almonds as that almonds smell
      • I believe you have to extract the cyanide from bitter almonds, or at least de-plenish it in some form.

        Most bitter almond extract actually has more scary stuff in it - the gooey inner pits from apricots. Which also has cyanide in it. I guess that makes my favorite dessert something like fugu...

        At least we're not taste-testers for the ricin factory...

  • by Muhammar ( 659468 ) on Tuesday April 01, 2003 @12:58PM (#5638478)
    You can smell HCN when you sniff at the bottle with cyanide or cyanoborohydride - it is a bitter, nasty, almnost pyridine-like stink. Sure, cyanide is in bitter almonds and peach inner seeds, it makes part of their flavour.

    What you smell is the common almond-food flavor (Dr.Pepper flavor)- benzaldehyde, most likely. They add this stuff into some furniture polish, too.
    The other possible, very similar almond-smelling substances are nitrobenzene (poisonous) and benzonitrile.

    I think it is some kind of solvent/paint additive which they use for printing the label on the CD, definitely not anything essential for the CD manufacture.

    [And, cyanin is a non volatile dye and has nothing to do with cyanide - the name is similar because of the greek word cyanos=blue]
    • almond-food flavor (Dr.Pepper flavor)

      Dr Pepper's flavor comes mostly from vanillin, which is similar to, but not quite the same as artifical almond. (We're talking organic chemistry, where a couple moved carbons can turn a safe sweet compound into a deadly poison -- this is why I'm a MechE and not a ChemE major!!). Vanillin is also used to flavor marshmallows.

      Dr Pepper does not contain any prune compounds.

      Don't get me started on Mr. Pibb......
      • We're talking organic chemistry, where a couple moved carbons can turn a safe sweet compound into a deadly poison -- this is why I'm a MechE and not a ChemE major!!

        No shit? I think a couple of missing or rearranged bolts on a bridge would royally fuck things up too. So would rearranging a couple of different resistors on a motherboard. You know, things are usually the way they are for a reason.
    • Sure, cyanide is in bitter almonds and peach inner seeds, it makes part of their flavour

      It's not free cyanide, it's in the compound amygdalin.

      From the Poison Information Centre of Singapore []: Commonly occurs in the kernels of almonds, apricots, cherries, peaches, apples, as well as the stems, leaves and roots of many rose (Rosaceae) family species.. A cyanogenic glycoside compound. It is known that the hydrolysis of amygdalin can give rise to hydrogen cyanide.

      Normally, the presence of amygdalin alone in
    • benzonitrile

      I always thought benzonitrile smelled like Dentyne chewing gum.
  • I can imagine hundreds of Slashdot readers surreptiously sniffing their CD-Rs at work, little knowing that their bosses have just stepped up behind them.

    boss: What the hell are you doing?!?!
    SDR: Ummm..Err..Uh..Quality control.
    boss: Oh...Very well. Carry on then.

  • I was just about to post an Ask Slashdot about a bag of nuts that I got last night that smelled like freshly burnt CD-R's.
  • I read something awhile back about the almond scent of cyanide. Apparently, only women can smell it, but not all women, only like 50% or so.

  • I love the smell of 100-CDR-spindles in the morning.

    It smells like victory.

  • What brands of CD's have you noticed this odour in. I have a bunch of "Princo" CD's that have a distinct chemical smell, which could be said to be similar to almonds I suppose.
  • "I have let serveral farts of various loudness at home and work, and some of them have a very strong dead animal odour when expelled. Does anyone know what causes that? I know that crap has a distinctive dead animal odour, but so does a range of other organic chemicals. Can any Slashdot readers with a chemistry background enlighten us as to the possible source of the smell?"

    Ok, Now post this as a /. topic.
  • coconuts seroiusly.. kinda like tanning lotion or a nice massage oil. For a romantic night i just open up a fresh spindle and light some candles, then do some cd burning...
  • by Mycx ( 663588 )
    No he is not kidding. I also have 4 spindles of Memorex cds and they smell marsipan cake (don't know if it is the right translation). I'm pretty sure it is that because i don't like marsipan cake ;)

Don't get suckered in by the comments -- they can be terribly misleading. Debug only code. -- Dave Storer