This story was first published on August 11, 2011
Message warns people not to use fingernails to scratch off the coating on scratch tickets because the coating contains a substance called “Silver Nitro oxide” that can cause skin cancer.
The information in the warning message is untrue. The coating on scratch tickets is made of specialized latex inks. There are no credible references to a compound called “Silver Nitro oxide”. There are no credible medical or scientific reports that suggest that scratch ticket coating has been linked to skin cancer. There are no credible references to an organization known as the “Medical Research Authority of the US”. A 2013 version of the hoax claims that it was one “Dr Brian Berry” who discovered the Silver Nitro Oxide cancer connection. However, there are no credible references to a doctor of that name making any such discovery. The later version is as equally false as its predecessor. Both versions are hoaxes and should not be forwarded.
Dr. Brian Berry of the United States has found new cancer in human beings, caused by Silver Nitro Oxide. Whenever you buy recharge cards, don’t scratch with your nails, as it contains Silver Nitro Oxide coating and can cause skin cancer. Share this message with your loved ones.
Important Health Tips:
1. Answer phone calls with the left ear.
2. Don’t take your medicine with cold water….
3. Don’t eat heavy meals after 5pm.
4. Drink more water in the morning, less at night.
5. Best sleeping time is from 10pm to 4 am.
6. Don’t lie down immediately after taking medicine or after meals.
7. When phone’s battery is low to last bar, don’t answer the phone, bcos the radiation is 1000 times stronger.
Can you Share this to people you care about?
I just did,
Kindness costs nothing
But Knowledge is power
ATTENTION. …..Medical research Authority of the US have found that new cancer in human beings caused by ‘Silver Nitro oxide’. Whenever u buy recharge cards or calling cards don’t scratch them with ur nail as it contain ‘silver nitro oxide’ coating and can cause skin cancer. Copy and paste this status and spread awareness please
According to this health alert, which is circulating vigorously via social media and email, an organization identified as the Medical Research Authority of the US ( or a “Dr Brian Berry” in a later variant) has discovered that the removable coating on scratch tickets can cause skin cancer. The message claims that a substance contained in the coating called ‘silver nitro oxide’ is the cancer-causing agent. The warning advises people against using their fingernails to remove scratch ticket coating because of this supposed cancer risk.
However, there is no credible support whatsoever for the claims made in this supposed health alert.
The coating on scratch tickets is not made from a substance called ‘silver nitro oxide’. In fact, I could not find any evidence that such a compound even exists. There are two chemical compounds with similar names. One is Nitrous oxide, more commonly known as laughing gas, which has been used as an anaesthetic in medical procedures since the 1840’s and is also used in rocketry and to enhance engine power in motor racing. The other is Nitric oxide, a diatomic gas that plays a role as a cell signalling molecule in mammals and is also used as an intermediate in the chemical industry. Neither of these compounds is used to create the coating on scratch tickets. In fact, the coating is created from specialized latex or UV inks. A technical article about the material used in such coating published on Quora notes:
The material is known as a UV ink. Not the ink that becomes visible under UV light as is referred to on Wikipedia, but an ink that ‘dries’ under UV radiation.
UV inks are essentially a mixture of colored monomers and oligomers (the individual chemical units that eventually form ‘polymers’ ) and reaction ‘photo-initiators’ that become active when exposed to UV radiation. The monomers and oligomers form a viscous liquid, thus serving simultaneously as the ‘pigment’ and ‘solvent’ of a conventional ink; they do not need an organic solvent as a fluid base, and do not ‘dry’ in air like typical solvent-based inks. On exposure to UV light, the initiators set off the polymerization reaction, rapidly cross-linking the monomers and oligomers into a solid ‘plastic’ polymer, in a process known as ‘curing’. This polymerization process also inspired the alternative naming of UV inks as ‘latex inks’.
The production of scratch-off tickets is a two-step process – a substrate is covered by a thick, smooth layer of UV ink coating, and then printed with a special ‘scratch-off’ black/silver UV ink (scratch-off inks can sometimes be solvent-based ). An optional third step could involve printing text or images over the scratch-off area, with yet another type of UV ink.
There is no mention of a chemical called silver nitro oxide being used in these UV inks. Nor are there any credible reports that suggest a link between inks used on scratch tickets and cancer.
Furthermore, there are no credible references to an organization known as the Medical Research Authority of the US. The closest I could find is the US-based Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA). But, not at all surprisingly, there is no information on the BARDA website that supports the claims in this hoax message in any way.
In 2013, a new variant of the message started appearing on Facebook. The new version claims that it was one Dr Brian Berry who discovered the new cancer linked to Silver Nitro Oxide on scratch cards. However, like its predecessor, the message is spurious nonsense. There are several doctors around the world that share the name Brian Berry, but none have been associated with the discovery of any new cancer caused by “Silver Nitro Oxide”. The new version is as equally false and ludicrous as the original. The new version also includes other dubious health tips, some of which have been associated with other health hoaxes. The claim that people should use the left ear to answer phone calls is apparently derived from another absurd hoax that claimed that using a mobile phone with your right ear could “directly affect your brain”. The suggestion not to take medicine with cold water may be linked to yet another health hoax that falsely claims that drinking cold water after a meal can cause cancer. And, of course, the claim that a mobile phone’s radiation is 1000 times stronger when the battery is low is simply ridiculous.
Scratch tickets of various types are these days just about everywhere. On any one day, vast numbers of people in dozens of countries are likely to be happily scratching away, often using their fingernails as scratching tools. So, of course, any credible link between scratch ticket coating and cancer – even a tenuous one – would have certainly been widely publicized by the mainstream media and medical authorities. In reality, there is nary a trace of such media or medical reports.
Thus, this supposed health warning is nothing more than one more sad bit of utterly pointless Internet junk and certainly should not be reposted.
Importance NoticeAfter considerable thought and with an ache in my heart, I have decided that the time has come to close down the Hoax-Slayer website.
These days, the site does not generate enough revenue to cover expenses, and I do not have the financial resources to sustain it going forward.
Moreover, I now work long hours in a full-time and physically taxing job, so maintaining and managing the website and publishing new material has become difficult for me.
And finally, after 18 years of writing about scams and hoaxes, I feel that it is time for me to take my fingers off the keyboard and focus on other projects and pastimes.
When I first started Hoax-Slayer, I never dreamed that I would still be working on the project all these years later or that it would become such an important part of my life. It's been a fantastic and engaging experience and one that I will always treasure.
I hope that my work over the years has helped to make the Internet a little safer and thwarted the activities of at least a few scammers and malicious pranksters.
A Big Thank YouI would also like to thank all of those wonderful people who have supported the project by sharing information from the site, contributing examples of scams and hoaxes, offering suggestions, donating funds, or helping behind the scenes.
I would especially like to thank David White for his tireless contribution to the Hoax-Slayer Facebook Page over many years. David's support has been invaluable, and I can not thank him enough.
Closing DateHoax-Slayer will still be around for a few weeks while I wind things down. The site will go offline on May 31, 2021. While I will not be publishing any new posts, you can still access existing material on the site until the date of closure.
Thank you, one and all!