Most poisonous thing

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.

Erm, you can eat (or drink - very famous case here) 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 can kill you in a few minutes.

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.

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.

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.

Polonium =/= plutonium.

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.

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.

Same for caffeine.

40-60 mg of nicotine is lethal for adults.

The minimum lethal dose of caffeines ever reported is 3,200 mg, administered intravenously.”

I win!

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 :stuck_out_tongue:

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:

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.

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. As few as two seeds can kill a child.

Nitpick, that was polonium, not plutonium :slight_smile:

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!”

Toxic, but not extremely so.

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.


This doesn’t make sense. It’s not possible to define an LD[sub]50[/sub] in the context of an individual. The whole point of the LD[sub]50[/sub] 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 LD[sub]50[/sub] for a given substance is the same regardless of the individual to whom the toxin is being administered.

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.)