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POISONS

 

ANTIMONY

ARSENIC

CYANIDE

phosphorous

THALLIUM

STRYCHNINE


ANTIMONY

Name, Antimony, tartar emetic, stibium.

Form, Antimony is a silvery-white, soft metal that will not dissolve in water. Tartar Emetic is a white powder - often hidden in food, but has a slight bitter taste. As a gas Antimony can be called stibine, a colourless and odourless gas that is released when antimony comes into contact with acid. Lots of chemicals and common items contain antimony, such as foil, batteries, glass enamels, explosives and matches. Antimony is also found in Ant-paste, which is where many Victorians found their poison. Antimony is an element on the periodic table.

Effects, Typically this poison is a skin irritant. Lesions causing extreme itching appear on exposed moist areas of the body, not often on the face. Clinically poisoning is similar to arsenic poisoning, typically diagnosis was that of gastric fever as the symptoms include fever, nausea, vomiting, dehydration and bad diarrhoea often containing blood. Slow and shallow respiration, pulmonary congestion, coma, and often death due to circulatory and reparatory failure. The autopsy may show liver damage and damage to other areas of the gastrointestinal tract.

Reaction time, Can be 30 minutes to several hours depending on the dose.

Treatment, Similar to arsenic poisoning, the stomach needs to be pumped, and a formula called dimercaprol is given , this needs to be done within 1 - 2 hours so as to neutralize the poison.

Famous cases, George Chapman

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ARSENIC

Name, Arsenic, White Arsenic, Black Arsenic, Metallic Arsenic, Arsenic Trioxide, arsenous oxide, arsenic trihydride.

Form, In its pure state a grey metal. Most often found as arsenic trioxide - a white powder. In Murder cases it is usually swallowed. Can also be inhaled as dust or gas.

Effects, Not completely agreed upon in the scientific community, but, it is believed that arsenic interferes with certain enzymes and chemicals in the body. Side effects can include jaundice type skin. After long periods of ingestion victims can display flaky skin. Arsenic is believes to be a carcinogenic, thus possibly causing skin cancer.

The most common effect of arsenic poisoning is extreme stomach pain and cramp, in fact in Victorian England doctors would often diagnose arsenic poisoning as gastric fever, normally it was to late for the victim by the time they established the true cause. Other symptoms include throat burning and pain, vomiting and diarrhoea with blood. Skin can become cold and clammy and the victims blood pressure falls dramatically, causing the person to become dizzy and weak. Convulsions and coma usually follow, death finally resulting from circulatory problems.

In cases of slow poisoning the signs are jaundiced skin, weakness and restlessness, headache and dizzy spells, with occasional spells of paralysis. Because of the structure of arsenic as an element, traces can be found in the hair, fingernails and urine, red blood cells are destroyed, thus causing the jaundiced look.

In extreme & Chronic arsenic poisoning the victim can experience burring in the hands and feet, a numbing sensation through the whole body, hair loss, skin irritation nausea, vomiting cramps, weight loss, visual disturbance and finally cardiac failure.

Reaction time, Normally within half an hour of the ingestion, death will occur in as little as a few hours, or, in the case of slow poisoning over a prolonged period, can take several weeks.

Treatment, The first course of action, if the doctor knows that it is arsenic poisoning, is to pump the stomach. The victim will then be given medication to bind the arsenic, and probably penicillin to clear any infections. The doctor will also need to treat the side effects of the arsenic, such as any shock, cardiac and blood related problems., as well as any kidney damage, which could result in kidney dialysis. Milk is often given to penitents as it acts a a binder in the stomach for arsenic and other metal derivatives. 

Famous cases, Marry Ann Cotton

CYANIDE

Name, Cyanide, Potassium Cyanide, Sodium cyanide, hydrogen cyanide,

Form,  Potassium Cyanide and Sodium cyanide are white solids with a slight almond odour. hydrogen cyanide is a gas. Cyanide in all forms can be swallowed, inhaled or absorbed through the skin.

Effects  Prevents red blood cells from absorbing oxygen. Cyanide poisoning is often called internal asphyxia. Swallowing or smelling cyanide can cause immediate unconsciousness, convulsions and death.

Reaction time, Pretty much immediately, but may be one to fifteen minutes. In gas form death in instant.

Treatment  Victim must seek treatment within half hour. If the cyanide has been swallowed Amyl Nitrate is administered immediately.

Famous cases,   Nazi  Gas Chambers used cyanide.

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THALLIUM

Name,

Form, Thallium is soft and malleable and can be cut with a knife at room temperature. It has a metallic shine but when exposed to air, it quickly tarnishes with a bluish tinge that looks like lead. A heavy layer of oxide builds up on thallium if left in open air. In water thallium hydroxide is formed.

Effects: Thallium poisoning happens in three stages;  first intravascular distribution, then CNS (
Central Nervous System) distribution, and finally elimination. In the first 4 hours following exposure, thallium is rapidly distributed to the blood and to well-perfused organs such as the kidney, liver, and muscle. Over the next 4-48 hours, thallium is distributed into the CNS.

Reaction time, Within three days of being poisoned, victims can suffer headaches, muscle problems, convulsions, coma, dementia and even psychosis. A dose as small as one gram can lead to death.

Treatment:  The main methods of removing thallium from humans is to use Prussian blue, which is a solid ion exchange material, which absorbs thallium. Up to 20 g per day of Prussian blue is fed by mouth to the person, and it passes through their digestive system.

Famous cases, Saddam Hussein allegedly used it on his political enemies.

phosphorous

Name, Phosphorous, Phosphide, Phosphine

Form, The crystals range from colourless to yellow, and darken on exposure to light. Phosphorous ignites in the air to form to form white fumes and a greenish light. Phosphorous melts at 44 degrees centigrade.

Effects  Contact causes tissue destruction, attacking the liver, lungs and eyes. Chronic contact attacks the jaw bone causing "Phossy-Jaw". Any exposure above 2 parts per million in the air will cause red blood cell destruction, skin irritation, also nerve and testicular destruction.

Reaction time, Within 2 hours and may last up to 2 weeks before death if not treated.

Treatment  Remove from exposure, if ingested, stomach pump. Wash skin with water.

Famous cases, Louisa Merrifield   Mary Wilson

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STRYCHNINE

Name,   Strychnine, Dog Button, Mole-mots, Mole death.

Form, Strychnine is a colourless powder with a bitter taste. Usually swallowed but can be poison by skin or eye contact. It can also be inhaled as a dust. It occurs naturally in some seeds and plants, particularly in the Dog Button plant that grows in India and other tropical places. The fruit resembles a small orange.

Effects:  Strychnine attacks the Central nervous System (CNS) and can exaggerate the reflex systems. This means all muscles contract at the same time causing spasms. The victim usually dies of asphyxiation, or sheer exhaustion. Symptoms start with the victims face and neck, then the arms and legs, The spasms spread quickly and become increasingly worse, putting the victim in extreme pain, and producing a contorted body. Rigor mortis sets in immediately on death.

Reaction time,  Ten to twenty minutes, this can be longer if the victim has a full stomach.

Treatment; The stomach can be pumped and activated charcoal administered, as long ass the symptoms are not too advanced, if the victim gets treatment very quickly.

Famous cases,  Dr Thomas Neil Cream

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