8-year-old Maria Chelysheva in Russia became an orphan in 2014 because of a batch of old potatoes that her family had let rot in their cellar. When her father went into the basement to get some potatoes, he never came back. Maria’s mother then went into the basement to find him, but she never came back either.
The same thing happened to Maria’s brother, and then her grandmother. Maria’s grandmother had previously called a neighbor for help, but by the time the neighbor arrived, the woman had gone into the basement herself, and suffered the same terrible fate as the rest of the family, save for Maria.
It’s important to remember that potatoes contain glycoalkaloids, a chemical compound that is also found in poisonous nightshade plants. That makes potatoes naturally toxic under the right circumstances, not just when they’re eaten by humans, but even from simply breathing in their chemicals.
Potatoes’ glycoalkaloids concentation goes up the more they rot, causing them to emit a dangerous, toxic gas. Exposure to this deadly compound is what killed Maria’s family.
Maria almost died as well when she started looking for her family. Luckily, the gas had dissipated a little because her mother had left the door open.
What happened to Maria and her family is absolutely heartbreaking, but hopefully their story will serve as a warning to others about the dangers of rotten potatoes. If you have potatoes at home that are at risk of going bad, get rid of them before it’s too late!