The Art and Science of Poisons

The Art and Science of Poisons

Poisons, due to their lethal nature, invoke a sense of fear in humans. Yet, they have also impacted other aspects of human life. Poisons have been used by nomadic hunters to kill their prey, by ...
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A Potpourri of Poisons

Pp. 227-261 (35)

Olen R. Brown


In creating this book, most poisons of interest naturally fall into reasonably discreet groups. However, there are many other interesting poisonous substances that do not deserve a full chapter and also are disparate in nature. Selecting poisons from this group of chemicals is fraught with risks – being too inclusive or too exclusive. In the end I made choices based on several factors: my interests (I admit it); the extent to which the substance actually has poisoned people; its appearance in literature, including murder mysteries; extensive public awareness of the agent; and its potency. Medicines are a great boon to humankind and I hesitated to include them in a list of poisons. In the end, I justified their inclusion because awareness is useful knowledge and because I sense there is curiosity about this aspect of many highly-prescribed medicines. Several toxic chemicals are included because they are deserving but not a good fit elsewhere. A host of chemicals are sufficiently toxic to be included in a compendium, which this book is not. Environmental pollution raises concern for toxins in our air, water and food. These poisons are present as trace amounts and may be involved in chronic health effects but do not belong in this account. Some chemicals have, unfortunately by my thinking, been unfairly accused and even damned by popular media and lawsuits. I will simply leave these out of my list.


Anesthetics, Bacterial Toxins, Blood Coagulation, Brodifacoum, Cancer Chemotherapeutics, Carbon Monoxide, Curare, Doxorubicin, Ethanol, Ethylene Glycol, Fentanyl, Hyperbaric Oxygen, Lethal Dose, LC50, LD50, Methanol, Opioid Epidemic, Painkillers, Paraquat, Pesticides, Pharmaceuticals, Rodenticides, Statins, Tubocurarine, Strychnine, Therapeutic dose, Toxic Dose, Vitamin K, Warfarin.


Dalton Cardiovascular Research Center University of Missouri Columbia, MO USA.