Posts tagged ‘poison’

Poinsettia Plants Aren’t so Bad after All

As the holidays draw near, there are PSAs everywhere about how to protect your pet from the most dangerous of plants: the poisonous poinsettia. While the holidays do bring some extra challenges and risks for our pets, that particular danger is a bit overblown. Think twice before you ditch yours just because of a pet (or curious toddler). As it turns out, the poinsettia’s reputation is rather undeserved.

poinsettia

The poinsettia is naturally found in Mexico and has become a traditional holiday decoration. The plant has bright red and green leaves reminiscent of the Christmas season. For some reason, the poinsettia has been labeled as a toxic plant—dangerous to children, pets, and maybe even your spouse! In reality, there is very little evidence to back up this claim and Snopes believes the myth began as a faked news story about a toddler dying after eating a single leaf.

(more…)

November 15, 2018 at 10:27 pm Leave a comment

Some Fruit Seeds Contain Cyanide

By Chad Upton | Editor

Seeds from peaches, black cherries, apricots and apples contain a compound called amygdalin. Your body metabolizes amygdalin as hydrogen cyanide, which can make you very sick and even kill you (in large doses).

Hydrogen cyanide is lethal because it impedes blood from carrying oxygen, which is of course a critical function of blood.

The pits and seeds from cherries and apples aren’t a huge concern since it would take an unreasonably significant quantity of those to cause you harm. However, you should be more aware of the dangers of peach and apricot seeds if you like to eat them.

If you’re just consuming the fruit, there is nothing to worry about; however, some people buy bags of apricot seeds, or other forms of amygdalin, as a treatment or preventative treatment for cancer. It is marketed under the name Laetrile and “Vitamin B17” although there are many studies that prove it is not effective at treating cancer, not to mention the increased chance of cyanide poisoning.

A fatal dose of cyanide can be as little as 1.5 mg/kg of body weight. Since an apricot kernel contains approximately 0.5 mg of cyanide, consuming 150 seeds in a short period of time could be lethal to a 50 kg (110 lb) person.

It’s not just fruit seeds, there are other foods that contain cyanide too. Cassava, also known as tapioca, contains two forms of cyanide and should not be eaten raw. It is rendered safe for consumption by the process of soaking, cooking or fermentation.

There are many people who consume these foods in small doses without issue; you can buy bags of apricot kernels from Amazon or health food stores. If you do buy some, heed the serving suggestion and warning on the package.

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Sources: wikipedia (amygdalin, cassava, cyanide poisoning, apricot kernel), Saint Louis University (PDF)

September 25, 2011 at 5:00 pm 6 comments

Why We Clink Glasses When We Toast

By Chad Upton | Editor

Many of you will be clinking glasses with family and friends this time of year and there are a number of theories about where this custom started.

One belief is that ancient societies believed that noise would scare away the demons (that they believed) were lurking around every corner. Firecrackers and noise makers are popular instruments to ring in the New Year, also believed to stem from the idea that noise would scare away evil spirits, clearing the way for good things to happen. Wedding bells and clinking glasses are other examples of this belief in practice.

Another legend says that nobles used to try to poison each other, so drinks were clinked to slosh liquid from one drink to the other, demonstrating that the guest’s drink was safe if the host was willing to drink from his now “contaminated” drink. Among trusted associates, table members adopted the “drink clink” to signify their trust that drinks were not poisoned without making a mess of the table — it was a sort of handshake.

A fairly reputable website, Snopes.com, disputes this theory, claiming that poisoning was not common enough for it to change the behavior of society. They also believe that too much liquid would be wasted for it to be practical. I generally trust snopes and usually agree with their proof and supporting statements, but their explanation on this matter has much more proof against than for it.

First of all, the argument that it was messy isn’t very strong. If you believed your life was at stake, you wouldn’t consider it a waste to spill some wine in exchange for your health.

Secondly, there is plenty of proof that poisoning was very common throughout history. The BBC says, “During the age of the Roman Empire, poisoning became a common activity at the dinnertable, especially in the high circles of society. It was certainly a convenient way of getting rid of unwanted family members, as [Emperor] Nero demonstrated.” They have a well researched article that demonstrates poisoning as a common occurrence and a popular anxiety among royals and high society for much of recorded history.

In fact, poisoning wasn’t just common in medieval times, it’s still popular now. There are multiple homicide and suicide cases every year that involve poisoning. In 1998, food was poisoned at a village festival in Japan, killing 4 and injuring 40 others. Recent intelligence has suggested that Al Qaeda groups have discussed poisoning buffets.

Poisons have changed a lot over the years, although arsenic was popular for more than ten centuries, until a method became available to detect it in the deceased. Many modern poisons are actually prescription drugs, including fentanyl — one of the drugs found in Michael Jackson body during the autopsy.

Regardless of poison threats, we continue to clink our glasses as a way to connect with each other. This has been nearly ubiquitous for more than 100 years. In fact, glass makers actually consider the sound that glasses make an important design element. So, Pay attention during your next toast, the sound may be as sweet as the sauce.

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Photo: AL404 (cc)

Sources: Snopes, Wine Intro, BBC, CNN

December 31, 2010 at 5:00 am 2 comments


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