In Russia, Maria Chelysheva’s entire family died because they let potatoes rot in their cellar. In 2014, Maria was eight years old and an orphan. Maria’s father went into the family basement to get some potatoes one day; he never came back up. Maria’s mother went down to see if she could find him, but she didn’t come back upstairs either.
Maria’s brother and grandmother also went downstairs to see what had happened, but just like everyone else, they didn’t come back. Before Maria’s grandmother went down into the cellar, she called a neighbor for help. Before the neighbor came, Maria’s grandmother had gone into the basement.
Potatoes contain glycoalkaloids, chemical compounds that can be found in the deadly nightshade plants. According to Food Safety Watch, some glycoalkaloids are used as pesticides. Potatoes, under the right circumstances, can be naturally toxic when they rot. People can be hurt by simply inhaling the chemicals or if the poisons are eaten.
The more rotten a potato is, the higher the concentration of the glycoalkaloids is – and they begin to release a toxic gas. When Maria’s family went into the basement, they inhaled the gas and were killed.
Maria was almost killed too, but because her mom had left the door open some of the gas had dissipated.
This heartbreaking story serves to remind us all about the hazards of rotten potatoes. Be sure to eat any potatoes you have at home before they rot – and if they start to go bad thrown them out before you or your family gets hurt.
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