How to escape from the "Novice": poisons and antidotes

The story of Sergey Skripal gained worldwide fame, although about 3 million people face similar poisonings every year, and for more than 200 thousand it ends fatally. Organophosphorus substances (FOV) are not only military and are found far beyond the confidential laboratories. By disrupting the transmission of signals between neurons, FOV is deadly poisonous to any creature that has a nervous system, and are widely used to combat insect pests. They are part of some household products against ants and cockroaches and are used as insecticides in agriculture. With poorly washed vegetables, fruits, herbs and products prepared from them, they can also get into our body - through the gastrointestinal tract, upper respiratory tract and even through the skin.

“While working on this topic, I constantly monitored relevant publications on Twitter, ” said Denis Ilyushin, a researcher at the Institute of Biochemistry (IBC) of the Russian Academy of Sciences. “And at least several times a week the following messages came across:“ Imagine, I was diagnosed with poisoning with nerve poison. ” However, many such cases turn out to be intentional: the peasants of the poorest countries often resort to insecticides to commit suicide, and FAV are one of the most common means in order to put a difficult point at the end of a difficult life. Karbofos and dichlorvos, chlorophos and diazinon - not without reason all these names sound almost as ominous as sarin, soman, or even Novichok and herd.


The danger of organophosphorus was not immediately recognized - and, of course, it did not end in good. A significant case of mass poisoning occurred in the United States during the years of Prohibition, when bootleggers launched the production of ersatz-alcohol to circumvent established restrictions. In Jamaican ginger tincture, supposedly intended strictly for medical use, substances were added that made it unsuitable for consumption in any serious quantities. However, 70–80% of ethanol outweighed any additives, and soon among the drinkers there were cases of sudden paralysis of the limbs. The total number of victims of that epidemic is estimated at tens of thousands, and not all of them managed to recover completely. The investigation pointed to the culprit of the disaster - an organophosphorus thickener tricresyl phosphate.

Organophosphates have an accumulating toxic effect, and prolonged contact with them is fraught with more serious consequences. In recent years, their use in agriculture has been gradually reduced.

It was from the beginning of the 1930s that chemists working with FAV began to study and discuss their dangerous toxic effects. The search began for the most effective molecules suitable for controlling pests of agricultural plants. So in December 1936, researchers at the German concern IG Farben received a volatile, fruity odor liquid, which in experiments with aphids proved to be especially promising. And already in January 1937, a few drops of the substance, accidentally spilled in the laboratory, poisoned the chemist Gerhard Schrader and his assistant. Following the instructions adopted by the Reich government at that time, the scientist sent a sample of the liquid to the military. From this began the history of poisoning FOV of a nerve agent.


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