Poison of any kind, be it chemical, food borne or naturally occurring, has been the subject of everything from the news to chemical warfare and even been the antagonist for plenty of mystery writers in their works of fiction. There are hundreds of deadly poisons known to man; many of which have been used nefariously to commit murder, genocide and acts of terrorism. Some of those poisons are on this list; shockingly others, used to such devastating effect, are not. Whether these poisons were produced synthetically for purposes other than causing death, whether they occur naturally in the plants and animals of the world, or whether they are a by product of some other lab experiment, one thing is certain; they will all kill you, and they will all kill you in painful, horrific ways. Here’s a list of the 10 deadliest poisons in the world.
A well-known toxin, Cyanide is a deadly poison that affects the central nervous system (CNS) as well as the heart. Even if a small dose of cyanide enters the body, the poison will attack the blood stream and bind to the iron in the blood, thus prohibiting oxygen to flow through the body, resulting in death in minutes. Though there are different forms of Cyanide, Hydrogen Cyanide, is by far the deadliest of them. Considered a chemical weapon as a gas, Hydrogen Cyanide is incredibly deadly, killing a human in less than ten minutes. In fact, the poison was used as such to devastating effect during the First World War, before chemical weapons were banned under the Geneva Convention. Today, Cyanide is predominantly used as a method of murder, suicide, or as a plot device in fiction.
Perhaps the most famous post 9/11 poison, Anthrax was seemingly in the media every day in the early years of the new millennium due to a series of Anthrax-infected letters that were mailed to unsuspecting victims across the United States in the weeks after 9/11. All told five people died and 17 more were injured in the Anthrax attacks, while millions more were affected by the paranoia it sparked. A new Anthrax scare arose everywhere, from major cities to small towns across the United States. The fear the poison elicited was widespread, and for good reason. Essentially a disease caused by bacteria, Anthrax must be inhaled to infect someone as it spreads by spores released into the air. After becoming infected, a minor cold will quickly turn into massive respiratory failure as the Anthrax shuts down a person’s breathing. The mortality rate from Anthrax is nearly 90% within a week of infection.
Considered a weapon of mass destruction, and rightfully so, the nerve gas Sarin will kill you in an agonizing way. From a tight chest to complete suffocation before your body shuts down, Sarin does its handiwork on the human body in an interminably long 60 seconds. That is all it can take; a meagre minute, a single, torturous minute to die. Though Sarin production as a weapon has been outlawed since 1993, there have been many instances since where the poison has been used in terrorist attacks or chemical warfare, particularly during the Tokyo Subway attack in 1995, and the insurgencies in Iraq and Syria, the latter where the chemical agent was employed on civilians killing anywhere from 330 and 1,800 people.
Amatoxin is a type of poison found in the world’s deadliest mushrooms. You know, the one’s they tell you not to eat when camping. The poison is extremely volatile; if ingested the Amatoxin enters the blood stream and makes a beeline for the liver or the kidney, resulting in extreme illness as the poison attacks the cells of the organ, shutting them down over a matter of days. Amatoxins can attack the heart as well; a sure bet that without proper treatment, usually consisting of high amounts of Penicillin, those who have ingested the poison will fall into a coma within days, and ultimately die of heart or liver failure.
Used as a pesticide meant to kill small animals, Strychnine is one of the deadliest poisons on earth. Though found naturally in certain trees in Asia, Strychnine is also created synthetically in labs (ironically winning a Nobel Prize for the first successful attempt). The poison can infect a person in a myriad of ways, whether through ingestion, inhalation, or absorption. Upon entering the body, within a few minutes the muscles begin contracting, while nausea and vomiting overwhelm the victim. As more and more muscles in the body begin to convulse and spasm, they lead to asphyxiation. The entire lethal process from ingestion to death takes roughly a half an hour.
Remember in science class when the teacher implored you not to break the thermometer? Well, for good reason. A heavy metal, Mercury is incredibly toxic to the human body when touched or inhaled. Had you or any of your classmates broken that thermometer and gotten some of the Mercury on your body, your skin would have started itching, burning and even peeling off within minutes. If ingested or inhaled, Mercury is altogether even more unpleasant, causing memory loss, loss of vision, kidney failure and brain damage. Eventually Mercury poisoning will shut down the CNS and result in death.
The infamous poison that dwells deep within the puffer fish, that many sushi connoisseurs pay a premium to eat in hopes it is prepared correctly, and the poison that almost killed Homer Simpson, Tetrodotoxin is lethal. Symptoms, of which there are a multitude, usually occur 30 minutes after consuming the poison. First, your mouth will become paralyzed; next swallowing will become a chore. Soon, your coordination and speech will become disabled. Following that, seizures and convulsions may set in, eventually leading to coma and death. Death most commonly occurs after about 6 hours, but Tetrodotoxin has been known to kill within 17 minutes, clearly making it one of the deadliest poisons on earth.
Ricin has become the new poison of choice when mailing toxic letters, supplanting Anthrax with that dubious distinction. Even a former Walking Dead actress was charged and convicted of mailing Ricin-laced letters recently. While the fervour surrounding such events may venture into the land of paranoia in the general public sometimes, the serious precautions taken by law enforcement with Ricin are wholly justified. Found in the bean of the Castor Oil Plant, Ricin is incredibly lethal, as it attacks protein production in the body, ultimately shutting it down completely. Most deadly when inhaled, hence the powdered form mail in letters, a quantity no larger than a sprinkle of table salt can kill. Knowing all this, it is no wonder Ricin has been studied as an option for chemical warfare by everyone from the United States military to Al-Qaeda.
The most dangerous nerve gas on the planet, this former pesticide became a prime target for militaries across the globe to stockpile, despite its label as a banned weapon of mass destruction. There truly is no use for VX other than as a chemical agent in war. So toxic is VX that one drop of the poison coming into contact with exposed skin will kill a human. Inhalation being the most common form of exposure, symptoms from VX poisoning will range from flu-like symptoms with mild exposure to paralysis and full respiratory failure leading to death when exposed to a lethal dose.
1. Botulinum Toxin
The deadliest poison on earth, a single cap full of Botulinum Toxin could potentially kill hundreds of thousands of people if let loose on the world by causing botulism, a disease that can shut down the CNS. Ironically enough however, Botulinum Toxin has many practical applications in everything from Botox treatment, to the treatment of migraines. That said, even some Botox patients have died as a result of their procedures involving Botulinum Toxin. Mortality rates in poisoning from Botulinum Toxin hover around 50% in untreated patients, while the remainder of those treated may suffer debilitating complications from their illness for years after treatment. Due to its volatile and readily available nature, Botulinum Toxin is the deadliest poison in the world.