NOTE: A few minutes after this was posted I received a message from FIREClean to my personal Facebook page. They sent a well worded and reasonable response stating that they will “wait and see what will be published or shared” regarding their products. I still have some research to do regarding the Iodine Value testing (I love that ASTM makes you pay to read what their standards are) so this post may be edited later, or followed up. We will see how this goes.
So I’m a bit late to the party, but Andrew Tuohy posted the results of the FIREClean/Crisco testing. I’m sorry I didn’t post this earlier, but I was traveling and starting an internship. Maybe it’s a good thing that I didn’t get to writing about this right away, all things considered…
Before I discuss the results, I want to make it clear that I put a lot of thought into it before I even volunteered to test these samples for Andrew. I am a firm believer in free market economics, and I love to see small businesses get going and do well. If my testing showed FIREClean to be standard canola oil, I was concerned that I would play a part in the downfall of a business. Regardless of your feelings towards any company, I don’t like to see companies fail. On the other hand, if my testing showed that FIREClean was different than canola oil, I would likely be accused of faking my data (more on that one later) or being paid off by FIREClean. In the end, I decided that no matter the outcome, I would do a fair and honest test in the name of scientific fact. That being said, on to the results.
You’ve probably already read the conclusion, so I won’t hold you in suspense any longer. According to multiple tests and after analysis by several different chemists, FIREClean is pure and unmodified canola oil. I sent the spectra to my academic advisor at WPI and this was how he responded:
Well, those look fairly identical to me, who is not exactly an NMR expert. Your chemical shifts are all the same, except the peaks around 130 are more intense in one sample so the integration “found” more of them. But, the visual inspection of both spectra side by side shows that they are actually present, just not above the software’s threshold for peak ID.
That’s pretty good evidence for the two samples being identical, but of course it isn’t 100% conclusive. You do have other tests to provide additional evidence, though!
The “other tests” he is referring to are the IR spectra of the samples. As many have claimed (and I agree), IR is not definitive proof of anything. What it is is simply another tool for an analytical or structural chemist to use in testing of samples. Combined with the NMR data, I feel confident when I say that the FIREClean I tested is canola oil without the addition of any corrosion inhibitors, stabilizers, or other enhancement materials. In addition, my advisor (a professor of chemistry at a technical school) and other chemists have agreed.
But FIREClean still refuses to accept facts. Shortly after Vuurwapen Blog posted the results of the testing they responded by claiming that their competitors were spreading lies and that “independent testing” showed that the Iodine Value of FIREClean is different than that of canola oil. I’d never heard of this method in analytical chemistry before, so I started doing some research. To summarize the process, a known mass of the sample being tested (usually 100g) is reacted with a known amount of excess iodine. The iodine breaks open the double and triple bonds in the oils and attaches to the carbon atoms on either side of where the bond was. Then the excess iodine is reacted with something to make it turn a dark color (the exact reactant varies based on the procedure, but some examples include starch or potassium iodide), and the solution is titrated to determine the amount of excess iodine that was in solution. This value is used to determine how much iodine was used in the reaction with the oil, giving an idea of how unsaturated the oil is (how many double and/or triple bonds the material has).
Unfortunately, this testing isn’t as exact as FIREClean would claim. Various published papers I found showed that values for the same oil can vary dramatically. The procedure, exact reactants and solvents used, and a variety of other factors change the calculated iodine value. So when FIREClean claimed that they “proved” their product isn’t canola oil, but then refused to post the labs that did their testing, it didn’t help their cause.
Shortly after the iodine value post, FIREClean posted their own NMR data… sort of. They posted a clip of their own NMR spectra of canola oil and Fireclean, only showing the shift range from 2.5 to 4.7. I commented encouraging the use of scientific facts and asking what lab provided the “independently collected” data. They responded that they did “lots of testing” at lots of labs,” but didn’t say what labs or provide any other tests. I asked for a look at the full proton NMR spectrum, but they claimed that they are “a small private company” with “large well funded competitors,” so they don’t post much of their testing. I see this as an attempt to hide something. If the testing has been done (and it had to be done for them to post a piece of the spectrum at all), I don’t see why they refuse to post the full dataset. I openly stated that I am the person who did the testing for Vuurwapen Blog, and that I want to give them a fair chance (and I do), so we will see what they do here.
Why is the full dataset a big deal? For some tests it isn’t. But this is NMR analysis. Remember how I said that peak size is relative in NMR spectra? Well you don’t have something to compare the peaks with if you don’t have the full spectrum. NMR peaks are compared via the integral value (the total area under each peak). FIREClean highlighted a difference of less than 1.1 between FIREClean and canola oil, claiming it “proved” their product is different than canola oil. If these were the only peaks then this could be a big difference, but these peaks represent only a small percentage of the total number of hydrogen atoms in the molecule. The majority of the hydrogen atoms in the samples are bonded to SP3 carbons (fancy science talk for the carbon having no double bonds) consisting of -CH3 or -CH2- bonds, and will result in a large peak with a shift in the 0.7 to 1.5 ppm range. With a peak this large (the spectrum posted on Vuurwapen Blog had an integral value of over 51) a difference of 1.1 between two smaller peaks is negligible. But what do I know. It’s not like I took an entire college class to understand NMR. FIREClean is probably right, and clearly doesn’t have a hidden agenda here.
What does all this mean? Take it as you wish, but I see it as FIREClean trying to save themselves. They are relying on a diehard group of customers that don’t care about the absurd price and overwhelming scientific facts. FIREClean is trying to pretend they know chemistry and have “proof” that their product has some magical additives to make it worth $15 a bottle. In their defense, they likely do know chemistry decently well. Someone without chemistry knowledge wouldn’t do as well at hiding behind their lies this long.
FIREClean started out just ignoring science, but now they have gone to blatant misrepresentation of scientific facts, something that really pisses me off. I took part in this testing to bring facts into the discussion, but FIREClean is heading toward the point of complete lies. Let’s see how well that goes for them. EDIT: FIREClean just messaged me stating that they will “wait to see what exactly is published or shared” regarding their products. See the note up top.
One comment that FIREClean has continued to use to attack those calling them out is the “Go see how canola oil works on your rifle” line. Unfortunately, our nation’s capital isn’t too friendly to firearms, so that testing will have to wait until my current internship is finished. But when I’m home in December I fully plan to make use of the gallon of canola oil I have. And what better way to test it than a New England winter and a few hundred rounds of cheap steel cased ammo. Soon enough…