the poisoners handbook

anonymous asked:

If someone were to be poisoned with arsenic for a long period, how might this affect them? What symptoms might they show, and what long-term effects might it have on them?

Hey there nonny! There’s an excellent chapter in Deborah Blum’s book [The Poisoner’s Handbook], which is a phenomenal history of poisoning and the development of forensic pathology as a whole, devoted to arsenic poisoning. 

Arsenic is a great mimic of other diseases, which means that it’s fairly easy to hide. In chronic poisoning like the one you describe, it causes skin lesions – either hyper or hypopigmentation, skin scaling. Hypertension. Kidney damage is very common. Fingernails develop whitish lines. 

Arsenic survivors have an increased tendency to develop cancer of the lungs, the bladder, the liver and the skin. 

But in acute poisonings – even those not severe enough to be lethal – arsenic produces gastrointestinal symptoms first, including nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain. Garlicky odor on the breath. Bloody vomit. Severe, watery diarrhea. Hepatitis. Arrhythmia, shock, hypotension. 

If the initial poisoning is survived, neurological problems are common and onset about 1-3 weeks after the poisoning. These include weakness, tingling, and sensory loss in the limbs which is rapidly ascending. It’s a form of bilateral neuropathy. 

One interesting thing about arsenic poisoning is that it tends to leave surprisingly well-preserved corpses. The arsenic prevents decomposition of the bodies by being toxic to the bacteria that typically break down the body. Bodies buried a year after dying of arsenic poisoning “did not differ from a living person” in appearance, according to a quote in Blum’s book. 

I hope this helped!! 

xoxo, Aunt Scripty


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Read This Month


91.  The Gunslinger: Revised by Stephen King ★★★★★ [RR]
92. Jerusalem: The Biography by Simon Sebag Montefiore ★★★☆☆
93. The Reading Promise by Alice Ozma ★★
94. The Poisoner’s Handbook by Deborah Blum ★★★★☆

I’m rewatching Season 1 of GoT and I’m at the scene where Sansa’s sitting at the Tourney so very excited about watching the knights and the Mountain kills the guy right in front of her. 

So the poor kid is traumatized, and in fact, most everyone looks very uneasy, and Petyr Baelish is just sitting there going on and an about the Hound’s origin story. And knowing what I know now, I have to wonder what the hell this man is thinking?

Originally, I thought it was a sort of well-meant warning to Sansa that this is a dangerous place, watch yourself, etc,, but the way Aiden Gillen is playing it, it’s way more skeevy.

He’s  so into it, it’s like he’s getting off on being able to share this little piece of knowledge with this poor girl. Since he deals in secrets, I do think he thinks of it as a gift, but there’s an element of sadism too and hints of control: i.e. here, let me freak you out, I am the only one who can protect you.

But there is also more than a little sense here that Littlefinger is already pretty twisted. He is enjoying her discomfort, but if we could see what he was thinking it would run along the lines of: see, I may not be a hunk, but I’m cool, really I am.

I am reminded of the scene in the Young Poisoners Handbook where the protagonist freaks out the girl he’s crushing on by revealing a little too much of the stuff he’s into.