We focus on

Poisoning is unpredictable and a permanent threat. Anyone anywhere is at risk of exposure: it can occur when people are drinking, eating, breathing, or even touch enough a hazardous substance to cause illness or death.

The lethal quantity of poison varies as even with a very small amount major injuries or illnesses can occur.

The health damages may appear very quickly after exposure, or they may develop over several years with long-term exposure.1

Knowing how to quickly recognized an exposure and which antidotes to use will be determinant of how many lives are saved.

Poison definition:

a substance that through its chemical action usually kills, injures, or impairs an organism2

Different types of poisons include:

Agricultural chemicals

The majority of agricultural chemicals are pesticides, which include insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, fumigants, and rodenticides.3


Organophosphorus compounds are commonly called nerve agents – discovered in the 1930s within the scope of industrial research for the development of pesticides and subsequently developed as chemical warfare agents, that are highly toxic at small dosages.4 By their consistency, nerve agents can contaminate water and food and are mainly toxic by dermal exposures.5


These substances include chemicals used in industry, as well as chemicals found in or near households. Poisoning with industrial chemicals occurs most often by either percutaneous or inhalation routes.3


Cyanide or blood agents are ubiquitous: they are present throughout fire smokes, as a chemical weapon (CWA), and in multiple industries (mining, fumigation, metal, electroplating, etc.) with potential human exposure.6,7,8 The effects of high-dose cyanide are quick, and death occurs within minutes.9

Heavy metals

The global burden of heavy metals, especially mercury, arsenic, lead, and cadmium toxicities remains a significant public health challenge. In the environment, heavy metals can contaminate water and soils. This contamination has increased during the last few decades because of electronic waste, fossil fuel burning, mining, and smelting, etc.10

Toxic alcohol

The toxic alcohols (Ethylene glycol, Methanol, diethylene glycol, etc.) are inebriating but are not directly toxic.11 Ethylene glycol is an alcohol found in many household products such as antifreeze, deicing solutions, and windshield wiper fluids. Odorless, colorless, and sweet in taste, it is most commonly ingested by children, animals, and those seeking a substitute for ethanol. Even the ingestion of a small volume can prove lethal.12

  1. WHO | Poisoning. (2014). Retrieved from https://www.who.int/environmental_health_emergencies/poisoning/en/
  2. Definition of POISON [Internet]. Merriam-webster.com. [cited 2021 Feb 10]. Available from: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/poison
  3. Wong, King Lit , Klaassen, Curtis D. and Halstead, Bruce W.. “Poison”. Encyclopedia Britannica, 12 Nov. 2020, https://www.britannica.com/science/poison-biochemistry. Accessed 10 February 2021.
  4. Nerve Agents: What They Are, How They Work, How to Counter Them. Costanzi, Stefano, Machado, John-Hanson and Mitchell, Moriah. 2018, ACS Chemical Neuroscience, p. 13.
  5. Environmental exposure to organophosphorus nerve agents. al, Slavica Vucinic &. s.l. : Environmental Toxicology and Pharmacology, 2017. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.etap.2017.09.004.
  6. Steven I. Baskin, PhD, et al. Cyanide Poisoning, Chapter 11. s.l. : Medical Aspects of Chemical Warfare; Published 2009.
  7. Occupational cyanide poisoning. Loic Amizet, Gauthier Pruvot, Sophie Remy, Michel Kfoury. s.l. : BMJ Case Reports, 2011.
  8. Five Decades of Global Chemical Terror Attacks: Data Analysis to Inform Training and Preparedness. Michael A. DeLuca, MD, MS, Peter R. Chai, MD, MMS et Eric Goralnick, MD, MS. s.l. : Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness, 2020.
  9. Focus on smoke inhalation – the most common cause of acute cyanide poisoning. . Eckstein M, Maniscalco P. (2 Suppl 2) 49:55, s.l. : Prehospital Disaster Med, 2006, Vol. 21.
  10. Natural antidotes and management of metal toxicity. Cecilia Nwadiuto Amadi, Samuel James Offor, Chiara Frazzoli, Orish Ebere Orisakwe. 18032–18052, s.l. : Environmental Science and Pollution Research, 2019, Vol. 26. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-019-05104-2.
  11. Kraut, Jeffrey & Mullins, Michael. (2018). Toxic Alcohols. New England Journal of Medicine. 378. 270-280. 10.1056/NEJMra1615295.
  12. Singh, R. & Arain, E. & Buth, A. & Kado, J. & Soubani, A. & Imran, Nashat. (2016). Ethylene Glycol Poisoning: An Unusual Cause of Altered Mental Status and the Lessons Learned from Management of the Disease in the Acute Setting. Case Reports in Critical Care. 2016. 1-6. 10.1155/2016/9157393.