Sciencegeist: Toxic Carnival: Day Three

Originally posted May 23, 2012

Today is Day 3 of “Our Favorite Toxic Chemicals” blog carnival! Lots of early activity! Should be a great day with some stellar posts.

I will aggregate the links here as they come in.

1) Supernova Condensate Markus gets the ball rolling with his favorite toxic hydrides. Highlights include arsine: “apparently has a faint garlic-like scent, but chances are if you can smell it you won’t live long enough to tell anyone that” and HF: “frankly, scares the hell out of me”. Me too, Markus. Me too.

2) J.A.Y.F.K. Dr. Rubidium has put up a brilliant post about succinylcholine and describes its use for both medical and nefarious reasons. She goes into detail about murder cases that revolved around the tricky forensic analysis of succinylcholine in the body. I can’t properly tout her work here. I’ll refer you to praise that came from Deborah Blum: “Wish I’d written this tale of anesthesia & murder. But @DrRubidium did it first and probably better”! Go read it!

3) Chemjobber CJ marvels at both the toxicity of fluoroacetate and its ability to tell us how metabolism works. Nature’s use of organic chemistry is truly on display here. Fluoroacetate isn’t toxic on its own, but its metabolite product (2R,3R)-4(fluorocitric acid) is. This is one of four possible metabolic products of fluoroacetate and is the only one of these four that is toxic. It is also the ONLY product formed. A loss for safety and a win for science.

4) ChemBark Paul takes notice of a “Chemical Free Zone” sign at Caltech. Sigh.

5) ScienceGeist I’ve got my take on some standard cancer therapies. Sadly, the only way to go through chemo is to test your body’s limits while you are purposefully trying to kill part of it.

6) Scientific Canadian Tyler gives a lesson on how chemists should describe chemicals in the media with respect to vinyl chloride. You must be honest about about risks and benefits. You must not elide over facts or make incorrect simplifications just to help your cause. In other word, you can not and must not use the same tactics as critics of chemicals use.

7) Endless Possibilities Katherine gives us even more reasons to love/hate HF. I’ll leave you with the money quote from her post: “The scary bit is the ‘initially painless burns’. People don’t immediately realise something has gone wrong. Those who use HF in the lab are pretty meticulous workers and for good reason. I’ve been the recipient of a phone call that started ‘I’ve spilled HF down me, we have to go to hospital’.” Yikes.

8) The Curious Wavefunction Ash gives a wonderful lesson on what brings about all of those nasty side-effects – proteins. The dosage and the protein that the drug molecule interacts with are of critical importance here. Truly, proteins are often the targets of synthesized drugs. But, there are proteins that have unintended interactions with the drugs that bring about side-effects. This is a wonderful look at toxicity from the target and off-target side of the equation.

9. The Second Criterion TSC brings us back for another look at fluoride. Why do we put fluoride in our water. All these years later (this practice was instituted in the 50s and 60s), has it actually helped? Does adding fluoride to our water do anything useful? Is it harmful? A colleague of mine at AU is intensely interested in this topic (and is on the side of keeping fluoride out of our drinking water, btw).