Nyodene D: What is the Chemical in White Noise? Is it a Real Explosive?

Image Credit: Wilson Webb/Netflix

Based on Don DeLillo’s eponymous novel, Netflix’s drama filmWhite Noise’ revolves around Jack and Babette Gladney, a Blacksmith-based couple whose lives turn upside down when an explosive affects their town. The explosion happens when a truck collides with a train of containers filled with Nyodene Derivative AKA Nyodene D. The liquid chemical spills into the outside of the containers and explodes, forming a toxic black cloud, which kickstarts the “airborne toxic event.” While attempting to escape from the cloud and its toxicity, Jack gets exposed to the same, which inflicts immense fear of death in him. Intrigued by the engrossing explosion and its consequences, we have found out whether Nyodene D is a real chemical. Here are our findings!

A Fictional Toxin is Born: Nyodene D in White Noise

No, Nyodene D is not a real chemical explosive. The fictional substance was conceived by Don DeLillo for his novel ‘White Noise,’ the source text of the film. In the novel, the chemical is described as “a whole bunch of things thrown together that are byproducts of the manufacture of insecticide.” According to Heinrich, the chemical also causes tumors in rats when the same is clinically tested. However, there isn’t any particular chemical explosive that really matches the characteristics of Nyodene D in real life. Still, real-life events did inspire DeLillo to create the chemical, explosion, and the subsequent airborne toxic event.

DeLillo’s novel is a critique of the 1980s, a period in which television or the entertainment industry for that matter changed the way reality is approached. Deaths, environmental hazards, calamities, and other tragedies became fantastical spectacles seen on television, making people think that the same is not part of real life anymore. The author wanted to break such a belief and bring seriousness and relevance back to these subjects, especially after watching footage of spills, like the Nyodene D spillage in the film.

“I kept turning on the TV news and seeing toxic spills and it occurred to me that people regard these events not as events in the real world, but as television — pure television,” DeLillo told NPR at the time of the publication of his novel. The author conceived Nyodene D and the explosion to depict how dangerous such toxic spills can be while the television succeeded in hiding their repercussions in the 1980s. The airborne toxic event that follows the Nyodene D explosion and its impact on the lives of the residents of Blacksmith are integral parts of the novel, which tried to unravel the reality of the 1980s upon its publication.

Thus, Nyodene D can be considered a fictional version of any chemical substance that can severely harm the environment and the lives who get exposed to the same. Through the chemical and the explosion, DeLillo’s novel and Baumbach’s film shed light on the toxicity that has been harming the planet in various ways but is hidden by television and other information mediums from the public.

Read More: Why Are People Dancing at the End of White Noise, Explained