I’ve been updating some of the pages in the A to Z section of this site with some recent stories of poisoning incidents.
The first involved a woman in Indiana who was tidying up her back garden and got the latex sap from an unnamed species of Euphorbia on her face and in her eyes. She described the burning pain in her eyes as worse than the pain of giving birth and said she felt as though acid had been poured onto her face. The website of the local TV station has a rather poor quality image of the plant in question intended to act as guidance for other gardeners but the video clip on the same page gives a better view.
The second story concerned a German monk, on a camping trip, who ate some Atropa belladonna, deadly nightshade, berries after mistaking them for an edible fruit. He was discovered wandering naked by a hiker and rejected all attempts at assistance. The hiker summoned the police who found the monk, after a brief search, and took him to a hospital where the cause of his hallucinations and manic behaviour were diagnosed and treated.
Then there is the, so far, mysterious case of a chemistry PhD student at Southampton University who is in hospital with arsenic and thallium poisoning. Though no route of administration has been determined, the labs at the university have been closed as a precautionary measure.
Then, after these stories of actual poisonings I saw a press release from one of the US Poison Control Centers warning that weather conditions had been ideal for an abundant crop of mushrooms from the various species of fungi growing in the area, some of which are highly toxic. The number of poisonings arising from eating wrongly identified mushrooms is, thankfully, small but when they do occur they tend to be very serious.
The British Medical Journal (BMJ) has just published a first person account of a serious mushroom poisoning that resulted in Nicholas Evans, author of ‘The Horse Whisperer’, and his wife having kidney transplants after wrongly identifying some mushrooms picked when on a visit to Scotland.
The other poisoning story is much more tragic and only partially related to plants. I’ve mentioned before that 23rd June 2012 though cyanide is produced by a number of plants including Prunus laurocerasus, cherry laurel, these days it mostly arises from non-plant sources. It is believed that many of the 264 people who died in the terrible fire in Karachi, Pakistan suffered cyanide poisoning.
This summary of a recently published paper reports the very high incidence of cyanide and carbon monoxide in victims of smoke inhalation in fires in enclosed places.
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