Poison and Poisoning: A Compendium of Cases, Catastrophes and Crimes

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Accent Press, Nov 22, 2012 - Science - 396 pages
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This fascinating book will be enjoyed both by those interested in the science of poisons and also by general readers who can dip in and find hair-raising horrors and calamities on every page.

In this fascinating guide to poisons, Celia Kellett provides information and entertainment in equal measure as she explains clearly what all the different poisons are and how they work, giving us all the gory detail of how, by accident or design, they have led to the demise of so many people.

From cyanide to the Black Widow spider, and from the Green Mamba snake to botulism, poisons can be found everywhere from the jungle to the refrigerator.

Did you know, for example, that the Emperor Napoleon died from arsenic poisoning caused by the green dye used for the pattern on his wallpaper? Or that the Green Mamba’s venom is so toxic that a bite is fatal within half an hour? Or that 50,000 people die from snake bites every year in India?

Poison is rarely out of the headlines, with recent stories including the murder, by polonium poisoning, of Alexander Litvinenko in London, allegedly by the KGB, The Horse Whisperer author Nicholas Evans becoming seriously ill in Scotland after eating poisonous mushrooms, and melamine poisoning in Chinese baby-milk formula.

It is a subject that holds a fascination for the general public who (along with budding crime writers, and perhaps the KGB) will want to buy this excellent book in large numbers.

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About the author (2012)

People are always saying how times have changed. But in the case of poison and poisoning, although few people can really be unaware of the danger of poisonous substances these days, still every year thousands are killed or made seriously ill by poison. Just like they were a century - or even a millennium - ago. Whatever happened to learning from our mistakes?

Socrates was put to death by a forced drink of hemlock; King Charles II was killed by his overzealous doctors; Napoleon was poisoned by his wallpaper ... These are just three of the many victims and their murderers that you will meet within the pages of this compendium of poisons and poisonings.

While most poisoning deaths are accidental, many victims are deliberately poisoned, and throughout recorded history, as this book will show, poison has been a favourite tool of murderers and assassins. Even in the 21st century, prisons worldwide still hold many murderers who used poison as their deadly weapon. Poisoning has the twin advantages for a killer of not requiring any direct physical violence and of there being a good chance that the crime will remain undetected. We know of course of many poisoners who have been detected and brought to justice, but how many have got away with it? We will never be sure.

While it is probably unlikely that you, the reader of this book, will be the victim of deliberate poisoning (unless you are very rich and extremely unpopular), there is no doubt that we are all, every day, at risk of becoming seriously ill, or dying, through contact with poison. Poisons are everywhere, as this book will demonstrate. Whether in the home or at work, in the countryside or in the sea, poisons pose a real threat to us.

To be fair, science has come a long way in learning the cause and treatment of a wide variety of poisons and poisonings, and many have been banned from use or assigned many precautions.

The purpose of this book is to clearly and accurately describe the many different kinds of poison that exist, what their effects are, how they can (sometimes) be treated and to show how, by design or by accident, they have led to the deaths of so many people.

Please note

This book is intended as a reference volume and informative guide for those wishing to know more about this fascinating subject. The author and publisher accept no liability for any claims arising from the use of this book and the information contained within it.

How this book is arranged

The contents are divided into sections and subdivided into chapters for ease of reference. There is a great deal of further information at the end of the book, and if you are looking for information about a specific poison (or poisoner) then you can find it by referring to the index on page 423. Many words are included in the glossary on page 387.

These are the sections to come:


Before getting too deep into detail, this chapter will give you a broad overview of poison and poisoning, including types of exposure, side effects and many wicked stories of past poisoners.

The poison basics: sources, symptoms and treatments

We''ll start with the sources of poison, covering mineral, vegetable, animal and man-made substances. These chapters will also explain how poisons work and the signs and symptoms of poisoning. A further source of poisoning - medical conditions caused by deficiencies, or excesses, of substances needed for the normal functioning of the body - will also be discussed, followed by a chapter on treatments.

The poison problems: at work and in the home

There are countless problems caused by specific poisonous substances, and we will discuss many of them here, from poisonous pigments and dangerous dyestuffs to occupational hazards, including fatal farming; from frightening foodstuffs to household horrors; from murderous make-up to the noxious nursery.

The ultimate poison legacy: catastrophes, accidents, murder and suicide

This chilling group of chapters covers the more gory details: catastrophes and accidents with poisons, intentional poisonings (including murder and warfare), self-inflicted poisonings, including abortion and, finally, suicide.

The poison penalties: uses, abuses and consequences

Delving even deeper, this final group of chapters begins with the medicinal uses of poisonous substances and the poisoning that results from misuse and abuse. We''ll also look at the lessons learned: medicines that have been restricted or withdrawn from use due to their unacceptable side effects. Finally, we''ll discuss the legalities that affect or have affected the sale, supply and use of poisonous substances.

Further Information

For those readers who would like more detail, this final section includes a series of appendices that list the full names of the living species mentioned in the text and their poisons, more information on natural dyestuffs, a more detailed cellular-level explanation of how poisons actually work, effects of deficiency and excess of vitamins and minerals in the body and a lethal lexicon. Finally, there is a list of abbreviations, a glossary of medical terms, references for each chapter, a bibliography and a list of websites for further reading, followed by the index.

Be prepared to see the world in a totally different (and perhaps more paranoid!) light by the time you''ve finished reading about the fascinating world of poisons.

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