Molecules and atoms are small but can kill you. A 180 nanogram dose of Botulinum was able to stop an adult from breathing. The nerve agent ricin only needs a single molecule to inactivate thousands of ribosomes for 1 minute and then kill the cells.
Lead, a famous poison, murders silently and quietly. It seeps into soil and water, causing the most deaths in human history. PFC chemicals in non-stick pans, chlorpyrifos in pesticides are toxic chemicals that we often subject to their safety.
But in the end, what is the most toxic chemical in the world? Gizmodo has interviewed a number of environmental health experts to help you get an answer.
Associate Professor of Environmental and Occupational Health at George Washington University
Although there are some mixed opinions, you can find a high consensus on this question. Most of the poison classes I attended said the most powerful poison in the world was Botulinum.
There are many different ways to measure toxicity, but a common method is to take a dose, how much of it you need to kill 50% of the people infected. We call it LD50 (Lethal Does for 50%).
And Botulinum produced by anaerobic bacteria has very low LD50 (only from 1-3 nanograms / kg of body weight). This toxin can be found in spoiled foods that are tightly sealed like canned foods.
Ironically, it is also something that some people have to pay to inject into their faces, in order to reduce wrinkles and make us look younger. At that time, it was often called botox. Botox is a very thin form of botulinum toxin that relaxes the smooth muscles around the eyes and forehead, to reduce the wrinkles caused by them.
Associate professor of Environmental Health at Harvard University
According to the traditional view, toxicity is considered as a consequence of the properties of a substance, along with the dose and duration of exposure to them. When people begin to identify serious poisons such as lead, mercury, dioxins and asbestos, it is clear that we need to do something to protect ourselves and everyone from them.
This has made those poisons less toxic, not because their toxicity has disappeared, but because we know what we can do to prevent them.
But there is another element that needs to be emphasized: Do we have enough knowledge to prevent other undiscovered toxins?
Some industrial chemicals are much more toxic than we think, partly because reports of their toxicity have been hidden by manufacturers. Accordingly, people are very little concerned about the health risks that can occur from chemicals “secret” this.
Although it is late, we now begin to understand that PFC chemicals, such as PFOA, are used to make non-stick kitchen utensils that are durable and difficult to decompose in the environment and they are also more toxic. much more than before.
Similarly, some pesticides, such as chlorpyrifos, thought to be safe for decades, turned out to be highly toxic. So, in my opinion, the most worrying toxic chemicals are the secret chemicals like PFOA and chlorpyrifos, chemicals that we are unknowingly coming into contact with without knowing they are toxic.
Associate Professor of Environmental Health at Boston University
Lead is the most toxic chemical to me.
With toxicological knowledge, I know that the most toxic chemicals are those that will make you sick or kill you quickly in small doses. However, when I think broadly in terms of public health and throughout history, I think lead is still the most toxic chemical to humans so far.
Lead may not kill you immediately in small doses like some of the more powerful poisons, but lead is a silent killer, because our bodies do not have a safe threshold for lead.
Since ancient times, lead has been identified as a poison and continues to be claimed as a poison in the industrial age. However, lead has come into our daily lives, because it has been used in gasoline, paint and plumbing for decades, thus polluting our soil and water.
It is also found in many everyday items like electronics, jewelry, toys and cosmetics.
Children with lead poisoning often face developmental, behavioral, and other health problems. Lead has been associated with higher crime rates and adverse mental health outcomes, as well as a decline in cognitive function and intelligence.
As we age, lead can continue to affect our mental and cardiovascular health, and even cause cancer.
Rita Loch Caruso
Professor of Environmental Health Sciences at the University of Michigan
Botulinum toxin is considered to be the most toxic chemical, based on the fact that its very small amount – in nanograms – can kill a human. It is a natural chemical, created by a bacterium (Clostridium botulinum).
Botulinum is most often found in unpackaged vegetable boxes. You may also know it with the pharmaceutical name, Botox – used to treat a number of health conditions, such as chronic migraine and fade wrinkles on the face.
This chemical inhibits one of the neurotransmitters passing from nerve to muscle to cause muscles to contract. The muscles become relaxed and don’t shrink anymore. For example, if you have a certain amount of this neurotoxin in your lungs, your body will stop breathing.
Ricin is a second strong poison. It is also another natural toxin, derived from castor oil. Ricin targets a structure in a cell called a ribosome. It attaches to the outside of this cell structure, and is then inserted and poisoned from within.
A single ricin molecule can inactivate thousands of ribosomes in a minute, it shuts down the process of protein synthesis very quickly, and then the cells die. Ricin was famous for the assassination of novelist Georgi Markov in 1978 in London, when he was injected with a poison into his thigh. Markov was waiting for the bus, barely feeling pain and then dying from poisoning.