The world we live in is full of both natural and man-made dangers. It turns out there are poisons that come in both varieties. Thanks to pop culture, people are familiar with some toxic substances such as cyanide and arsenic. However, it seems that these substances aren’t really the most lethal of their kind.
The toxicity of a poison is determined via the chemcical computation, LD50 (Lethal Dose, 50%). The formula refers to the amount needed to kill 50% of the test subjects. It determines how much poison is needed to kill a living thing. LD50 is often quoted per kilogram of body weight.
That said, here are the most lethal poisons in the world.
This dangerous substance comes from the seeds of the castor oil plant, whose scientific name is Ricinus communis. The seeds are pounded into powder with grains that are similar to table salt. The LD50 of ricin when injected or inhaled is 22 micrograms per kilogram of body weight. Interestingly, when ricin is eaten, it loses some of its toxicity because the poison gets deactivated in the stomach. Then again, that’s no guarantee that a person will live.
To give people an idea just how poisonous ricin is, historians cite the case of Bulgarian activist Georgi Markov. To kill Markov, an assassin used a very small amount of ricin placed into a tiny platinum-iridium alloy sphere. The sphere was most probably placed into an airgun concealed in an umbrella. Markov, who had been living in exile in the UK, was just waiting for a bus when the assassin hit fired the sphere on the back of his right thigh. At that time, Markov simply thought the man had hit him with the tip of the umbrella. Markov immediately fell ill and died at a hospital three days later.
This poison was highlighted in the 1996 action movie, The Rock — which starred Sean Connery and Nicolas Cage. This happens to be the only synthetic or man-made substance on the list. It was developed by British chemists sometime in the early 1950s.
VX itself reportedly has the consistency of engine oil. The LD50 of VX is 3 micrograms per kilogram of body weight. VX literally stops your nerves from working. It interferes with the processing of an enzyme called acetylcholinesterase. Thus, anyone exposed to VX seems to suddenly experience a seizure. The victim’s muscle contractions go on overdrive. When this happens, the victim is deprived of oxygen.
South American tribes are know for using venom-tipped blowpipes. They — particularly, Native Indians in Western Colombia — get the venom from the skins of tiny frogs called the Phyllobates terribilis. The poison that comes from the frogs is called Batrachotoxin, whose LD50 of VX is 2 micrograms per kilogram of body weight.
Scientists note that Batrachotoxin blocks the sodium ions in your body. These sodium ions are needed for your heart to function. So, naturally, if it’s being block then the heart stops beating.
It’s worth noting that the skins of the frogs that are born in captivity are no longer toxice. This has led scientists to conclude that the frogs’ skins get their poison from something in their natural habitat. It must be something they eat that gives them their lethal power.
This is a toxin created by dinoflagellate, which is a type of marine plankton. Other sea creatures, such as shellfish, consume these planktons. Thus, they get contaminated with poison. Humans usually get exposed to Maitotoxin when they eat contaminated shellfish. Maitotoxin’s LD50 is less than 2 micrograms per kilogram of body weight. It causes heart failure.
1. Botulinum toxin
The Botulinum toxin or BTX is produced by a strain of bacteria called Clostridium botulinum. There are several variants of this toxin. The Type A BTX is the most lethal, with an LD50 of 1 nanogram per kilogram of body weight. Humans are exposed to this when they get food poisoning.
Interestingly enough, a non-lethal variant of BTX is now being used in Botox injections.
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