Sciencegeist: Toxic Carnival: Day 5

Originally posted may 25, 2012

Have you had enough?! No … Well I haven’t either. We’ve got some more fantastic posts today. Enjoy! As usual, I’ll aggregate them here through the day. I’m also planning a little recap for earlier next week. Thanks again to all who have posted and shared and tweeted and read and commented. I think that we’ve all had a bunch of fun with this.

1) The Poison Garden John kicked off the day on his blog “The Poison Garden”, the perfect venue for a #ToxicCarnival if I have ever seen one! His post very nicely lists and describes the poisons that come from some of our most infamous poisonous plants: cocaine from Erythroxylum coca, coniine from Conium maculatum (poison hemlock), atropine from Atropa belladonna (deadly nightshade), and hyoscyamine from Hyoscyamus niger (black henbane).

2) Chemistry World Blog The crew at the Chemistry World Blog are back for more CO fun today! This time Phillip takes us into the world of nickel tetracarbonyl. This molecule can kill you in more ways than one. If you inhale it, it dissociates to form CO (which can give you CO poisoning) and nickel (which will attach to your lungs, plating it with metal). It turns out that this compound, though deadly, is important in purifying nickel from metal ores. This is a really cool post!

3) It’s The Rheo Thing John asks a really important question in his post. “Are we expecting too much of the general public to accept this dichotomy that chemicals are both good and bad?” Like I said, this is a really good question. And one that I’m going to address in more detail in my wrap-up. I thank John for asking it.

4) Newscripts Prolific blogger, Lila Guterman, writes a stellar post on the discovery of one particular poison in frogs an birds. Scientists have long been interested in the toxins secreted from frogs. Many of these are being studied for use as next-generation antibiotics. What is unexpected is to find those same toxins in birds! Lila tells a wonderful story of discovery with some fantastic anecdotes.

5) Scientifics Steve has a quick little blurb on Botox. He informs us that the median lethal dose of botulinium toxin in monkeys is 40-56 nanograms. Yikes.

6) Chemical Space David has more Botox fun on his site. Did you know that Botox was first used to treat crossed-eyes! There you go … the next time my wife tells me to move away from the TV I can just tell her a little Botox will fix that right up! The killer quote: “4 kg of botulinum toxin could, if properly dispersed, kill the entire human population of the planet”

7) Elemental Deborah shows why she is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist with her post: “Nicotine and the Chemistry of Murder“. Just a brilliant recounting of the murder of Gustave Fougnies by his sister and brother-in-law. Deborah sets the stage for this murder with a quote from a trial in which someone had been murdered with morphine. The lawyer in this case said: “Henceforth, let us tell would-be poisoners…use plant poisons. Fear nothing; your crime will go unpunished. There is no corpus delecti (physical evidence) for it cannot be found.” And nicotine IS a potent killer. The lethal dose of nicotine is 30-60mg (you get around 1mg from smoking a cigarette). And the nicotine from cigarette smoke reaches your brain in roughly seven seconds. Just amazing work by Deborah, who, through her example, teaches us all on how to report chemistry with breadth and life and curiosity. You’ll have to go to her post for the rest of her fantastic story!