Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go. ~ E. L. Doctorow

Monday, April 18, 2011

O is for Oxybenzene

Another poison today from Book of Poisons: A Guide for Writers. It's incredible how many poisons we store under our roofs. Makes it easy for the villain to harm and/or murder a person. The book provides scientific information, so I won’t attempt to paraphrase, but give you direct quotes.

Disclaimer: Do not attempt the method discussed. The information provided is meant for fiction writing only. Please keep it on the page.

Oxybenzene or Phenol (p. 47-48):

Other: Carbolic acid, phenic acid, phenylic acid, phenyl hydroxide, hydroxybenzene, oxybenzene

Toxicity (scale of 1-6; 1=almost non-toxic, 6=super toxic): 5

Form: A white crystalline substance that turns pink or red if not completely pure, phenol has a burning taste, a distinct, aromatic, acrid odor, and is soluble in water. In addition to the household uses listed the notes below, it is used in production of fertilizers, paints, paint removers, textiles, drugs, and perfumes. All equally deadly are inhalation of mist or vapor; skin absorption of mist, vapor, or liquid; ingestion; and skin or eye contact. Phenol penetrates deeply and is readily absorbed by all surfaces of the body.  

Effects and Symptoms: Phenol is corrosive. In high concentrations, contact with the eyes can result in severe corneal damage or blindness. Skin contact, which can occur at low vapor concentrations, causes burns that form white patches.
            If a sufficient amount of phenol is ingested (and in most household forms, it is very diluted), the victim will suffer from vomiting and diarrhea. Because of the corrosive effects, burns can injure the gastrointestinal tract; if the phenol is absorbed into the system, it may cause seizures, coma, blow blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, and respiratory arrest.

Reaction Time: Thirty minutes to several hours.

Antidotes and Treatments: For skin contact, washing for fifteen minutes, followed by mineral oil or olive oil or petroleum jelly to treat the burns. Eyes that have been exposed are flushed repeatedly with water or saline solution. After inhalation, victims are removed from exposure and given oxygen. Activated charcoal is recommended for ingestion; however, one source suggests withholding it if the doctor expects to use an endoscope to check for damage to the gastrointestinal tract.

1. This is another toxin that had widespread household use as a germicide and a local anesthetic until replaced by less toxic substances. Even now it constitutes roughly 4.7 percent of the topical ointment Campho-Phenique, and is used in a variety of sore throat remedies, including lozenges and the spray Chloraseptic. It is also used to cause skin peeling for cosmetic purposes.

2. Dinitrophenol was formerly used medically as a metabolic stimulator for weight reduction.

3. Phenol is used in making creosotes (wood or coal tar); phenol derivatives are used in making disinfectants, antiseptics, caustics, germicides, surface anesthetics, and preservatives.  

Do you know any other household items considered poison?


Bob Scotney said...

This makes you glad to be breathing oxygen.

D U Okonkwo said...

Whoa - i don't know whether to be glad that I learned something new, or worried!

Nofretiri said...

Okay, thus far my characters died either a natural death, in consequence of a natural disaster or under mysterious circumstances ... but you're right, sometimes you need even sources like that! Which is creepy and interesting at the same time!

Karin @ Nofretiris Dream Of Writing

Michael Offutt said...

The F.B.I. has been alerted. You are going to be watched missy!

Karen Peterson said...

How interesting.

I know someone who was attacked once with bug spray. Creepy what it can do in high enough quantities.

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