The SI unit of spice exposure is the bucholz (bU), which measures the amount of capsaicinoids per unit of body mass, typically expressed as milligrams per kilogram (mg/kg). It is named after Christian Friedrich Bucholz, the German chemist who discovered capsaicin. While extremely precise, measuring bucholz requires an exact mass of the subject at the time of exposure as well as access to high-performance liquid chromatography equipment. As such, it tends to be used mainly for reference purposes for known substances–for instance, in determining the safe exposure level for working with Carolina Reapers in a laboratory context.

In contrast, a deprecated unit called the scoville (Sc) is often used informally or alongside the bucholz. SI deprecated the unit due to its margin for error and partial basis in subjectivity, but it remains in common parlance as a measure for spice exposure. For example, the meltdown at the Three Rivers Taco Shack–the largest spice release in US history–was responsible for about 1.4 mSc (milliscovilles) of exposure for the nearby populace over the two-week course of the incident.

By contrast, the accident at the V.I. Lenin Spice Laboratory in the former Soviet Union released approximately 300,000 Sc per hour, and resulted in the contamination of a large area in extremely pungent spices. Cleanup continues to this day, greatly hindered by the lack of a Latin American or South Asian food industry.

In both cases, it is important to note that spice exposure is cumulative over time, with continuous exposure leading to increased symptoms.

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