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How are poisons discovered? Does someone have to die/be poisoned from it first?

Alle Dinge sind Gift, und nichts ist ohne Gift, allein die Dosis macht dass ein Ding kein Gift ist (The dose makes the poison) - Paracelsus Poisons (I'm going to use this as an umbrella term for "...
paracetamol's user avatar
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29 votes
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Can drinking a lot of water be fatal?

Based on what I gathered from this Wikipedia article, Yes. Drinking copious amounts of water can prove fatal. The proper term is "Water intoxication". When you start taking in a lot of water (by "a ...
paracetamol's user avatar
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29 votes
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Is Fluorine more toxic than Chlorine?

Fluorine is much more reactive than chlorine and would certainly cause more damage to living tissues. You can even check out https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vtWp45Eewtw for some fun demonstrations of ...
ManRow's user avatar
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28 votes
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What chemical properties of ethanol make it usable for drinks as compared to that of methanol?

The problem arises from the metabolized products of methanol. Methanol oxidizes in the liver by an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase to formaldehyde which is further metabolized to formic acid by ...
Nilay Ghosh's user avatar
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27 votes
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Is poison still poisonous after its 'expiration date'?

It depends on what the poison is. If we take the colloquial use of the word and include toxins and venoms, many are things like proteins that will certainly denature or otherwise degrade, eventually ...
Michael DM Dryden's user avatar
25 votes

How toxic chemically is plutonium (Pu), neglecting the radioactive damage?

The toxicity is primarily due to radioactivity and to absorption by the body, where that radioactivity can act internally. There is, "significant deposition of plutonium in the liver and in the &...
DrMoishe Pippik's user avatar
22 votes
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Toxicity of metallic lead (Pb)

Metallic lead is very low risk. Lead compounds are fairly poisonous: they slowly build up in the body and cause many harmful effects. But lead metal is very inert and you would need to do something ...
matt_black's user avatar
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22 votes

Chilling water in copper vessel

Do not do it !! ( putting acidic, or rather any juice to copper bottles ) You are in danger of copper poisoning. Generally, by food processing laws, copper is not allowed to be in direct contact ...
Poutnik's user avatar
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21 votes
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Is there any substance that's a 4-4-4 on the NFPA diamond?

Diborane. NIOSH gives NFPA 4-4-4-W:
feetwet's user avatar
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21 votes

Can drinking a lot of water be fatal?

Yes. See Jury Rules Against Radio Station After Water-Drinking Contest Kills Calif. Mom The husband of a California woman who died after participating in a radio station's water drinking contest ...
DavePhD's user avatar
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21 votes

Why is potassium ferrocyanide considered safe for consumption, when it is just one reaction away from the highly toxic potassium cyanide?

Under biological conditions it is almost impossible to release HCN Free cyanide can be released from potassium ferrocyanide by heating or by strongly acidic conditions (and some heat). Neither of ...
matt_black's user avatar
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20 votes

Any substance too poisonous to measure an LD50?

Of course no. Botulotoxin is probably the strongest known, and still its $\rm LD_{50}$ is counted in nanograms per kilogram, which is pretty manageable. Sure, working with such tiny amounts requires ...
Ivan Neretin's user avatar
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19 votes
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Mercury metal: Not toxic?

Mercury is toxic, but you need to carefully define what you mean by toxic or you draw incorrect conclusions Toxic is a broad term. It means a lot of different things. The timescale matters. Some ...
matt_black's user avatar
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19 votes

How toxic chemically is plutonium (Pu), neglecting the radioactive damage?

Actual toxicity other than radioactivity is not, as far as I know, very well studied. Quite simply, most of the danger is the radioactivity in general, as well as the toxicity of decay products (...
Austin Hemmelgarn's user avatar
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Can osmium react with oxygen at room temperature?

From Encylopedia Britannica: Of the platinum metals, osmium is the most rapidly attacked by air. The powdered metal, even at room temperature, exudes the characteristic odour of the poisonous, ...
Waylander's user avatar
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16 votes

How are poisons discovered? Does someone have to die/be poisoned from it first?

As you already correctly deduced, the discovery of poisons was in former times quite accidental, but once its potency was discovered, the (mis)use of it was predictable. It must also be said that our ...
Thorsten S.'s user avatar
13 votes
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How does one tell (or conclude) if a substance is carcinogenic?

How do we tell or suspect one compound to be carcinogenic? As written in the comments to the question, this the result of large studies on the human population, correlating blood or urine levels of ...
TAR86's user avatar
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13 votes

Is Fluorine more toxic than Chlorine?

Fluorine is in the first place much more reactive than chlorine. In contrary to chlorine, it would not damage biological tissues. It would destroy them. Pure fluorine could put the body on self-...
Poutnik's user avatar
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12 votes

What makes formaldehyde 'safe' or 'dangerous'?

The toxicity of formaldehyde is dose-dependent. The famous saying "the dose makes the poison" is one of the rules of thumb about toxicology. Your body can effectively detoxify small amounts of ...
R. Cabell's user avatar
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11 votes

How are poisons discovered? Does someone have to die/be poisoned from it first?

Sometimes poisons are discovered by chance. At least that is what happened to me. We were researching on products made with malonodinitrile and enones. Since I was interested in the mechanism, I used ...
Raoul Kessels's user avatar
11 votes

Can osmium react with oxygen at room temperature?

As the others already stated, handling pure Osmium is too dangerous at home, but there are shops that offer small samples of elements sealed in acrylic glass, which is supposed to be safe. Maybe this ...
Eldrad's user avatar
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10 votes
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Why is carbon monoxide not a greenhouse gas?

$\ce{CO}$ is not considered a primary (or significant) greenhouse gas due to the weak (but non-zero) absorption of energy in the infrared. However, it does increase global warming by reacting with ...
Todd Minehardt's user avatar
10 votes

What chemical properties of ethanol make it usable for drinks as compared to that of methanol?

Nilay's answer, as well as the comments, do a great job of explaining why methanol is toxic (and ethanol is comparatively less toxic). I'll take a different approach here: I'll explain why ethanol is ...
Aniruddha Deb's user avatar
10 votes

Is Fluorine more toxic than Chlorine?

From: Fluorine gas MSDS Chlorine gas MSDS Section 11, toxicity: Product Result Species Dose Exposure fluorine LC50 Inhalation Gas. Rat 185 ppm 1 hours chlorine LC50 Inhalation Gas. Rat 293 ppm 1 ...
Jason C's user avatar
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10 votes

Can osmium react with oxygen at room temperature?

According to Wikipedia: Finely divided metallic osmium is pyrophoric[1] and reacts with oxygen at room temperature, forming volatile osmium tetroxide. Some osmium compounds are also converted to the ...
Oscar Lanzi's user avatar
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9 votes

Is there any substance that's a 4-4-4 on the NFPA diamond?

I think chlorine trifluoride deserves a mention One of the issues with relying on published NPFA triangles to judge the answer to this question is that some of them don't seem to be very reliable ...
matt_black's user avatar
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9 votes

Mercury metal: Not toxic?

Quoting matt_black's answer: In fact you could probably drink it with few ill effects. Indeed, as described here (link is to a PDF), there are documented cases where individuals consumed appreciable ...
hBy2Py's user avatar
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9 votes
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Is palladium really that poisonous?

Intoxication can be acute (short time of exposure, effects appear fast), or chronic (longer exposures, the onset toxic effects will take days, months or years). For Iron Man it seems clear that this ...
Variax's user avatar
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8 votes

How do people know HCN smells like almonds?

how do people know HCN smells like almonds Bit late to the party, but I'm missing a crucial part in the existing answers. So here are my 2ct: HCN does not smell like [bitter] almonds. Personally, I ...
cbeleites unhappy with SX's user avatar

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