Just about anything…
– Anything in the right dose can kill
– Consider ever chemical to be a poison
– Water and salt have poisoned and killed
According to toxicologist Paracelsus (circa 1500), “the dose makes the poison”. What this means is that every chemical can be considered a poison – if you have enough of it. While some are already known to be avoided at all costs, some humans need in order to live, but are still toxic in the right amount. Of course, how much is needed to become toxic depends on a lot of factors: size and weight, age, gender, method of exposure etc.
Basically, all chemicals are poisonous. It just depends on the amount!
For example (remembering these are median lethal values based on an average human)… water needs 8kg and impacts the nervous system, alcohol requires 500g and impacts kidney and liver, table salt 225g and caffeine 15g and both impact the nervous system.
Even oxygen has a sinister side. “Oxygen is the ultimate toxin,” says Michael Trush, a toxicologist at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Oxygen combines with food to produce energy, but our bodies also produce oxygen radicals—atoms with an extra electron that damage biomolecules, DNA, proteins, and lipids. “We are oxidizing all the time,” says Trush. “The biochemical price of breathing is aging.” Which is to say, we rust.National Geographic
Water toxicity is a conditions known as hyperhydration or water toxemia and is where there is a disturbance in brain function because the balance of electrolytes is affected by the excess water. Notable cases include:
– Andy Warhol (1991): his family accused the hospital where he had gallbladder surgery of water intoxication administered after gall bladder surgery. He was 10kg heavier after the operation which was provided as the evidence too much fluid was administered.
– Matthew Carrington (2005): died because of a Chico State University fraternity hazing ritual involving forcing water consumption. His death resulted in Matt’s Law (a California law allowing felony prosecution when serious injury or death is caused by hazing rituals).
– Jennifer Strange (2007): died when part of a radio on-air contest “hold your wee for a wii” where she had to drink as much water as possible.
Excess salt also affects the brain. A 5-year-old boy died in 2014 in New York from high levels of sodium. It was discovered his mother had been suffering from Munchausen syndrome by proxy and had been poisoning him with table salt since he was an infant. Even in hospital she’d administer the salt through his feeding tube. His mother was charged with second-degree murder and first degree manslaughter and was sentenced to 20 years in prison.