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What Is the Most Poisonous Chemical Compound?

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Radioactive elements like this plutonium sample are dangerous because they emit radiation, but may not be as toxic as biological agents.

Radioactive elements like this plutonium sample are dangerous because they emit radiation, but may not be as toxic as biological agents.

Haschke, Allen, Morales (2000). "Surface and Corrosion Chemistry of Plutonium". Los Alamos Science.

Question: What Is the Most Poisonous Chemical Compound?

Answer: When you get right down to it, everything is poisonous. Water will kill you if you drink too much of it. Oxygen is a deadly poison, yet we need it to live. However, there are some chemicals that we are better off not encountering. Here's a list of the most poisonous chemicals known. Keep in mind, toxicity varies from one species to another (i.e., what may be poisonous for a mouse may be more/less poisonous to a human) and within a species (i.e., age, sex, genetics all affect susceptibility to a toxin). I've listed the name of the toxin, its source, approximate average lethal dose per kilogram of body weight (LD50), and the species.

 

  1. tetanus
    1 nanogram/kg
    mouse, human

     

  2. botulinal neurotoxin (bacteria)
    1 nanogram/kg
    mouse, human

     

  3. shigella (bacteria)
    1 nanogram/kg
    monkey, human

     

  4. palytoxin (coral)
    60 nanogram/kg
    dog (iv)

     

  5. diphtheria (bacteria)
    100 nanogram/kg
    human

     

  6. ricin (from castor beans)
    1 microgram/kg
    human

     

  7. aflatoxins (mold which grows on nuts, legumes, seeds)
    1-784 micrograms, depending on type of aflatoxin
    duckling (oral)

     

  8. shigella (bacteria)
    1 microgram/kg
    mouse

     

  9. saxitoxin (shellfish)
    3-5 micrograms
    mouse (iv), about 50x higher dose orally

     

  10. tetrodotoxin (fugu pufferfish)
    10 micrograms
    mouse (ip)

     

  11. diphtheria (bacteria)
    1.6 milligram/kg
    mouse

     

Sources:

Merck Index, 11th Ed., S. Budavari et al. (editors), Merck (1989) ISBN 911910-28-X

McGraw-Hill Concise Encyclopedia of Science and Technology, 2nd Ed., McGraw Hill (1989) ISBN 0-07-045512-0, CD-ROM

 

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