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Saint Cad
02-06-2011, 12:20 PM
From Cad Jnr. "What is the most poisonous thing?"
According to him, what it is not along with my answers:
Smallest amount needed to kill (plutonium)
Fastest to kill - nonfood (nerve gas disqualified because you don't eat it - same with plutonium)
Highest mortality rate (fugu or some mushrooms I suspect are close to 100%)

So Cad Jnr. wants to know what can you eat that would kill you the quickest (ignore anaphylaxis due to allergy) and how quickly it works.

Superfluous Parentheses
02-06-2011, 01:21 PM
According to him, what it is not along with my answers:
Smallest amount needed to kill (plutonium)
Fastest to kill - nonfood (nerve gas disqualified because you don't eat it - same with plutonium)
Highest mortality rate (fugu or some mushrooms I suspect are close to 100%)

So Cad Jnr. wants to know what can you eat that would kill you the quickest (ignore anaphylaxis due to allergy) and how quickly it works.

Erm, you can eat (or drink - very famous case here (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poisoning_of_Alexander_Litvinenko)) plutonium, it's just that it (AFAIK) has no nutritional value, but that would apply to pretty much any poison or venom.

What I guess Jr. means is a "natural" organic "thing" (like berries) that "looks" edible and would kill you the quickest should you try to eat it. Some of the Australian wildlife might come in pretty high. IIRC some people eat some jellyfish, but even just touching a box jellyfish (http://www.yesaustralia.com/Curiosidades-animaising.htm) can kill you in a few minutes.

Arkcon
02-06-2011, 01:35 PM
Cyanide is very fast acting, on the order of minutes. The myth goes that the discoverer had time to write in his notebook, "smells and tastes of bitter almonds, ..." before dying. Wikipedia no longer has that story, may be apocryphal. Cute saying, 'tho.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyanide#Toxicity

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyanide_poisoning#Acute_poisoning

Shagnasty
02-06-2011, 01:52 PM
Curare (pronounced cure-are-ee) is a cool poison. It doesn't answer his question directly because of the way it works but he may still like to know about it anyway. It is the poison that South American natives use on some of their poison darts to shoot monkeys from trees. You can taste it without much effect but you absolutely cannot get any in your bloodstream. It paralyzes skeletal muscles so that the victim can't breath anymore. It doesn't kill directly. If breathing is supported artificially, the victim will recover from it, otherwise death is the time it takes to suffocate. The dose needed to kill is tiny and can be delivered through a barely noticeable pinprick.

http://www.livestrong.com/article/29650-curare-work/

enigmatic
02-06-2011, 01:53 PM
I'm pretty sure botulinum toxin is still most toxic known. LD50 is about 1ng/kg in humans so 90ng or so potentially lethal to humans.

Fastest is going to depend on the routes of absorption. Hydrogen cyanide would be my general pick though.

Highest mortality rate is heavily dependant on the dose, the first principle of toxicology is that everything is none lethal in some circumstances (see botulinum, injected into supermodels). If you are asking about untreatable poisons, paracetamol and paraquat are notorious for resulting in poisoning that absolutely will kill the patient after quite a long period of suffering, large enough doses of radiation are similar.

Mijin
02-06-2011, 02:16 PM
Erm, you can eat (or drink - very famous case here (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poisoning_of_Alexander_Litvinenko)) plutonium, it's just that it (AFAIK) has no nutritional value, but that would apply to pretty much any poison or venom.


<Nitpick>
Polonium =/= plutonium.

Superhal
02-06-2011, 02:18 PM
If you swallowed a teaspoon of lava that would probably kill you before it hit your stomach unless it melted through your tongue and jaw first.

I don't quite understand the question. Poisons aren't poisons because they are poisonous when you eat it.

I guess if we alter the question to say "what is something usually ingested that is the most poisonous?" then 1 drop of pure nicotine (actually a pesticide) on your tongue will kill you.

Many drugs like cocaine, heroin, angel dust, etc., if they aren't cut by other products, will kill you in pure form.

enigmatic
02-06-2011, 02:22 PM
Erm, you can eat (or drink - very famous case here) plutonium,

That was polonium, although there isn't really anything stopping you eating plutonium though and it is pretty toxic. All of this stuff is going to be many orders of magnitude less toxic than the botulinum though, (even the cyanide requires about 1000 times the dosage)

Depending on how you define poisonous, a single prion may have the potential to kill you.

ultrafilter
02-06-2011, 02:23 PM
I guess if we alter the question to say "what is something usually ingested that is the most poisonous?" then 1 drop of pure nicotine (actually a pesticide) on your tongue will kill you.

Same for caffeine.

Superhal
02-06-2011, 02:29 PM
Same for caffeine.

40-60 mg of nicotine is lethal for adults (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicotine#Toxicology).

"The minimum lethal dose of caffeines ever reported is 3,200 mg, administered intravenously (http://www.solarnavigator.net/solar_cola/caffeine.htm)."

I win!

enigmatic
02-06-2011, 02:59 PM
honestly, it's impossible to compare at that level, the data we have available on human LD50's tend to be very erratic for obvious reasons (seriously, LD50 reports have a tendency to read more like a list of really stupid things people have done, 3200mg intravenous caffeine, why?), and LD50's for many drugs can vary wildly from individual to individual, it might take a lot more caffeine to kill a fit guy who normally drinks a lot of coffee and has a different metabolic enzyme isotype.

And 40-60mg is still a lot more than 90ng :p

Nicotine tends to be very poorly absorbed as well compared to a lot of stuff here, I wouldn't be suprised to find that there was about 60mg of the stuff in a regular cigar. Back when I was researching neurotransmitters I had a big jar of about a few hundred grams of nicotine that I was very careful not to drop :eek:

The Tao's Revenge
02-06-2011, 03:45 PM
If you swallowed a teaspoon of lava that would probably kill you before it hit your stomach unless it melted through your tongue and jaw first.

I don't quite understand the question. Poisons aren't poisons because they are poisonous when you eat it.

I guess if we alter the question to say "what is something usually ingested that is the most poisonous?" then 1 drop of pure nicotine (actually a pesticide) on your tongue will kill you.

Many drugs like cocaine, heroin, angel dust, etc., if they aren't cut by other products, will kill you in pure form.

I think the op has it covered. Most people don't eat lava.

Shagnasty
02-06-2011, 03:56 PM
I think the op has it covered. Most people don't eat lava.

Don't get me started on the time I tried some overheated Swiss Fondue. I am lucky my tongue ever worked again.

Cat Whisperer
02-06-2011, 04:04 PM
In the category of "most poisonous thing that you can easily grow and might not even know you have in your yard," I'll nominate the Castor Bean. (http://museum.gov.ns.ca/poison/?section=species&id=114) As few as two seeds can kill a child.

aruvqan
02-06-2011, 06:06 PM
Erm, you can eat (or drink - very famous case here (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poisoning_of_Alexander_Litvinenko)) plutonium, it's just that it (AFAIK) has no nutritional value, but that would apply to pretty much any poison or venom.

What I guess Jr. means is a "natural" organic "thing" (like berries) that "looks" edible and would kill you the quickest should you try to eat it. Some of the Australian wildlife might come in pretty high. IIRC some people eat some jellyfish, but even just touching a box jellyfish (http://www.yesaustralia.com/Curiosidades-animaising.htm) can kill you in a few minutes.

Nitpick, that was polonium, not plutonium :)

Saint Cad
02-06-2011, 06:28 PM
But I dont think people will eat pure nicotine and the issue with the castor beans is not how much but how quickly.

So what unpurified food type object (so plant or animal) will kill you in the shortest time after "That looks yummy!"

Canadjun
02-06-2011, 08:29 PM
there isn't really anything stopping you eating plutonium though and it is pretty toxic.

Toxic (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plutonium#Toxicity), but not extremely so.

Canadjun
02-06-2011, 08:32 PM
I think the op has it covered. Most people don't eat lava.

And I don't think lava would be considered poisonous or toxic anyway. Let it cool down and you are just eating (or trying to) a rock.

Machine Elf
02-07-2011, 08:20 AM
LD50's for many drugs can vary wildly from individual to individual, it might take a lot more caffeine to kill a fit guy who normally drinks a lot of coffee and has a different metabolic enzyme isotype.

:confused:

This doesn't make sense. It's not possible to define an LD50 in the context of an individual. The whole point of the LD50 is to account for variations from one individual to another by defining the dose required to kill 50% of a group of subjects.

IOW, the LD50 for a given substance is the same regardless of the individual to whom the toxin is being administered.

Ludovic
02-07-2011, 08:35 AM
But I dont think people will eat pure nicotine and the issue with the castor beans is not how much but how quickly.

So what unpurified food type object (so plant or animal) will kill you in the shortest time after "That looks yummy!"

Two contenders: the bitter almond and the yew tree. Both contain fast-acting poison. The bitter almond is the best contender, as depending on the strength of the cyanogenic poisons contained within, as little as a couple dozen or so eaten in quick succession might do you in from cyanide poisoning (which as others have noted is very quick).

The yew tree might or might not count, I'm not sure. Most parts of most species of yew are extremely toxic and contain a fast-acting toxin, but you wouldn't look at most parts and say "ahhh, yummy!". Plus, the fleshy part of the "berry", which one might eat, is usually not toxic: however, the actual seed within usually is.

So, if you were to see yewberries and gather up a bowlful or so and start popping them without regard to the seeds, you might just drop dead with no warning (according to wikipedia that is.)

Cluricaun
02-07-2011, 08:55 AM
Many drugs like cocaine, heroin, angel dust, etc., if they aren't cut by other products, will kill you in pure form.

This isn't true at all.

Khendrask
02-07-2011, 10:42 AM
Beryllium Oxide in its dust form has an LD50 to 0.5 to 5 mg/kg.

enigmatic
02-07-2011, 11:18 AM
This doesn't make sense. It's not possible to define an LD50 in the context of an individual. The whole point of the LD50 is to account for variations from one individual to another by defining the dose required to kill 50% of a group of subjects.

IOW, the LD50 for a given substance is the same regardless of the individual to whom the toxin is being administered.

I knew someone was going to point that out as soon as I read the post back through :p. It does tend to get used rather loosely by lazy scientists to just mean lethal dose when it shouldn't.

My point was that human LD50 records tend to either be based on a very random patchwork of incidents or an extrapolation from other primates. Given both this and the fact that the exposure environment and access to medical intervention tend to vary by compound, it's very difficult to make statements about relative toxicity of compounds based on published human LD50 values that are within a order of magnitude or so of each other.

Sailboat
02-07-2011, 12:05 PM
Erm, you can eat (or drink - very famous case here (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poisoning_of_Alexander_Litvinenko)) plutonium, it's just that it (AFAIK) has no nutritional value, but that would apply to pretty much any poison or venom.

<Nitpick>
Polonium =/= plutonium.

That was polonium, although there isn't really anything stopping you eating plutonium though and it is pretty toxic. All of this stuff is going to be many orders of magnitude less toxic than the botulinum though

Just highlighting that plutonium is toxic if you swallow it, although less so than arsenic, for example. It's also radioactive, carcinogenic if inhaled, can pose a risk of criticality (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criticality_accident), and it's heavy as hell if you drop it on your foot. Plus you will draw the attention of government agents if you have any. Just stay away from it. It's bad stuff.

heavyarms553
02-09-2011, 12:51 AM
Well, the most poisonous native thing growing in north america is probably the fool's webcap. There have been reports of fatal poisonings from merely tasting it and spitting it out. Destroying angels and deathcaps get a lot of publicity, but you need to eat quite a bit more of them to die.

FuzzyOgre
02-09-2011, 04:59 AM
Nobody mentioned hydrogen sulfide? Just a whiff will kill you, and its easy enough to accidentally ingest some crude oil that contains a lethal dose.

And if you survive, your lifetime tolerance goes down.

TravisFromOR
02-09-2011, 05:51 AM
Just highlighting that plutonium is toxic if you swallow it, although less so than arsenic, for example. It's also radioactive, carcinogenic if inhaled, can pose a risk of criticality (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criticality_accident), and it's heavy as hell if you drop it on your foot. Plus you will draw the attention of government agents if you have any. Just stay away from it. It's bad stuff.

Just making a post about plutonium on a public message board can draw the attention of jack-booted thugs.

Sailboat
02-09-2011, 07:29 AM
There's also dimethyl mercury. In a notable case (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karen_Wetterhahn), a small amount killed someone right through her protective equipment. Procedures for handling it were revised as a result of this accident, but, more to the point, most authorities now discourage using it at all.

enigmatic
02-09-2011, 07:30 AM
Just making a post about plutonium on a public message board can draw the attention of jack-booted thugs.

Maybe. What exactly do you think they are going to do after they get here and ascertain that the thread isn't "can someone hook me up with 7kg of plutonium, need answer fast"?

Or do you think everyone gets an annual allowance of times that they are allowed to discuss things that have national security implications in a none security relevant context, before they go on the no flight list? :p

Sailboat
02-09-2011, 07:34 AM
Nobody mentioned hydrogen sulfide? Just a whiff will kill you, and its easy enough to accidentally ingest some crude oil that contains a lethal dose.

And if you survive, your lifetime tolerance goes down.

I don't see anything suggesting that in Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydrogen_sulfide#Toxicity):

Since hydrogen sulfide occurs naturally in the body, the environment and the gut, enzymes exist in the body capable of detoxifying it by oxidation to (harmless) sulfate.[6] Hence, low levels of sulfide may be tolerated indefinitely.

Exposure to lower concentrations can result in eye irritation, a sore throat and cough, nausea, shortness of breath, and fluid in the lungs. These effects are believed to be due to the fact that hydrogen sulfide combines with alkali present in moist surface tissues to form sodium sulfide, a caustic.[10] These symptoms usually go away in a few weeks.

Long-term, low-level exposure may result in fatigue, loss of appetite, headaches, irritability, poor memory, and dizziness. Chronic exposure to low level H2S (around 2 ppm) has been implicated in increased miscarriage and reproductive health issues among Russian and Finnish wood pulp workers,[11] but the reports have not (as of circa 1995) been replicated.

Mangetout
02-09-2011, 08:22 AM
Well, the most poisonous native thing growing in north america is probably the fool's webcap. There have been reports of fatal poisonings from merely tasting it and spitting it out.

Really? Wikipedia mentions claims to this effect, but states that a citation is required. I had previously understood (on the authority of several respected mycologists) that any fungus could be tasted with impunity, as long as it was just a very small piece, spat out and followed by further salivating and spitting.

FuzzyOgre
02-09-2011, 08:31 AM
I don't see anything suggesting that in Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydrogen_sulfide#Toxicity):

Wikipedia never worked on an oil rig. If you do, you are required to take an H2S safety course and get certified.

One of the things they drum into you is that it is heavier than air and can be dissolved in various substances, so walking through the wrong mud puddle can jar it loose. You'll drop like a stone if its concentrated enough.

Here is a chart. http://www.safetydirectory.com/hazardous_substances/hydrogen_sulfide/fact_sheet.htm

Those are pretty rarefied concentrations. The stuff is bad news.

http://cupe.ca/health-and-safety/Hydrogen_Sulfide

I was taught that if you do succumb and are revived(or are even just exposed to high levels), you then have a life time lower tolerance, and beyond a certain point you will be barred from entering oil lease sites.

Ah-ha! "Legator and Singleton (1997) reported that permanent central nervous system damage can occur at concentrations common at industrial facilities, asphalt sites, and livestock operations." from http://ohsonline.com/Articles/2007/10/Human-Health-Effects-from-Exposure-to-LowLevel-Concentrations-of-Hydrogen-Sulfide.aspx?Page=2

So the means by which it damages can be permanent, so on subsequent exposures, less of the same would be needed to kill you.

heavyarms553
02-09-2011, 09:33 AM
Really? Wikipedia mentions claims to this effect, but states that a citation is required. I had previously understood (on the authority of several respected mycologists) that any fungus could be tasted with impunity, as long as it was just a very small piece, spat out and followed by further salivating and spitting.

That is probably correct. However, I'm not so confident that I'd try it out!

enigmatic
02-10-2011, 04:31 AM
Wikipedia never worked on an oil rig. If you do, you are required to take an H2S safety course and get certified.

It's nasty stuff all right. I'd always been taught that hydrogen sulfide was about on par with hydrogen cyanide.

The issue is that it's detectable via smell at very low levels (I believe that it's actually released by old style ammonium sulfide stink bombs), and when increased steadily will become physically intolerable well below the toxic levels, it's therefore not regarded as dangerous by a lot of people who have encountered it only through chemistry lessons because of that. But your sense of smell is rapidly lost (potentially in seconds) at high concentrations which makes it easy for poisoning to go unnoticed.

I was taught that if you do succumb and are revived(or are even just exposed to high levels), you then have a life time lower tolerance, and beyond a certain point you will be barred from entering oil lease sites.

I don't remember anything about the reduced tolerance thing, and a search for "hydrogen sulfide lifetime tolerance" didn't show anything relevant in the first few hits other than this thread.

Are you sure that the reference wasn't to shorter term issues? Enzymes do often take a fair amount of time to recover to normal levels after major poisoning events.

There is a paper here (http://www.annualreviews.org/doi/abs/10.1146/annurev.pa.32.040192.000545?journalCode=pharmtox) that Google search tells me contains the text "time to apparent recovery, e.g. some blood enzymes returned to normal only. 2 months after the H2S poisoning (101, 102)"
but I'm not in a position to get the actual paper, so you might want to check it out if you have literature access.

Ah-ha! "Legator and Singleton (1997) reported that permanent central nervous system damage can occur at concentrations common at industrial facilities, asphalt sites, and livestock operations." from http://ohsonline.com/Articles/2007/1...de.aspx?Page=2

It's certainly going to have the capacity to cause permanent nervous system damage, anything that screws with mitochondria is going to have the capacity to do that. I wouldn't expect such damage to increase it's chance of killing you next time, although I'd be surprised if we understood the nervous system well enough for anyone to be able to give you a definitive no on that.

si_blakely
02-10-2011, 08:26 AM
In the category of "most poisonous thing that you can easily grow and might not even know you have in your yard," I'll nominate the Castor Bean. (http://museum.gov.ns.ca/poison/?section=species&id=114) As few as two seeds can kill a child.The toxin is Ricin (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ricin) and when injected is very toxic - so toxic that the KGB used it successfully as an assassination weapon - check out Georgi Markov (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georgi_Markov).

Si

FuzzyOgre
02-11-2011, 04:38 AM
It's nasty stuff all right. I'd always been taught that hydrogen sulfide was about on par with hydrogen cyanide.

The issue is that it's detectable via smell at very low levels (I believe that it's actually released by old style ammonium sulfide stink bombs), and when increased steadily will become physically intolerable well below the toxic levels, it's therefore not regarded as dangerous by a lot of people who have encountered it only through chemistry lessons because of that. But your sense of smell is rapidly lost (potentially in seconds) at high concentrations which makes it easy for poisoning to go unnoticed.

Right. In the field it can jump from barely irritable to fatal levels in seconds. I can see that being much less likely in a lab.



I don't remember anything about the reduced tolerance thing, and a search for "hydrogen sulfide lifetime tolerance" didn't show anything relevant in the first few hits other than this thread.

Are you sure that the reference wasn't to shorter term issues? Enzymes do often take a fair amount of time to recover to normal levels after major poisoning events.

There is a paper here (http://www.annualreviews.org/doi/abs/10.1146/annurev.pa.32.040192.000545?journalCode=pharmtox) that Google search tells me contains the text "time to apparent recovery, e.g. some blood enzymes returned to normal only. 2 months after the H2S poisoning (101, 102)"
but I'm not in a position to get the actual paper, so you might want to check it out if you have literature access.Possibly. I will see if I can find my old text book. I do remember being told you could be blacklisted from work, and there is an effective blacklist system in place.

For instance, if you were a big enough jerk to people they'll blacklist you, and if your employer attempts to use you on jobs, they will get blacklisted too.

It's certainly going to have the capacity to cause permanent nervous system damage, anything that screws with mitochondria is going to have the capacity to do that. I wouldn't expect such damage to increase it's chance of killing you next time, although I'd be surprised if we understood the nervous system well enough for anyone to be able to give you a definitive no on that.

Yeah, they might be erring on the side of caution. For instance, if you have a hearing impairment, they will ask you to get medical proof that you dont have a perforated ear drum as H2S poisoning can bypass PPE(air masks) that way.

Heyoka13
02-11-2011, 07:27 PM
What would be a lethal dose of anti-matter?

Seems like just enough to blow your head off would do the trick. Anyone know off hand the mass/energy equivalent of a few M-80s?

The Tao's Revenge
02-11-2011, 07:36 PM
What would be a lethal dose of anti-matter?

Seems like just enough to blow your head off would do the trick. Anyone know off hand the mass/energy equivalent of a few M-80s?


Even few people eat antimatter than they do lava. See the OP.

HMS Irruncible
02-11-2011, 08:46 PM
Nobody mentioned hydrogen sulfide? Just a whiff will kill you, and its easy enough to accidentally ingest some crude oil that contains a lethal dose.
Bullshit. If that were true, nobody would survive their first boiled egg fart. Every spring, children would be lying on church lawns dead after easter egg hunts. (Certainly it is lethal at high enough concentrations, but I wouldn't call that a "whiff").


The one interesting thing about HS is that it doesn't smell at lethal concentrations.

Saint Cad
02-12-2011, 11:29 AM
Cad Jnr was asking for the answer. Is there a consensus on which food (not refined chemical) will kill you the fastest?

Heyoka13
02-12-2011, 11:33 AM
Let me revise and extend my antimatter suggestion to whatever portion of an antimatter mustard grain it would take.

Additionally, my post was in the form of a question . . .

And a rather good one at that.


:D