So, this ex-KGB dude who has been very critical of Russian President Vladimir Putin was allegedly poisoned with thallium by the Russian government. This kind of thing was supposed to end with the Cold War, wasn't it?

Some interesting facts about thallium:

  • it is a rare, soft, bluish-white metal that resembles aluminum
  • thallium sulphate (a salt made up of thallium + sulphur + oxygen) has been used as a rat poison and insecticide since it is odourless and tasteless (these features also make it well suited to intentionally poison political dissidents)
  • poisoning with this metal can produce a wide variety of effects since many organs are affected (lung, heart, muscles, liver, brain), making diagnosis a pain in the butt if the source of the poisoning is not known
  • nerve damage is the primary toxic effect of thallium exposure, leading to characteristic symptoms such as: paraesthesia (skin sensations such as pain and numbness with no apparent cause), ophthalmoplegia (paralysis of the muscles controlling the eye), and flaccid paraparesis (weakness in muscles below the waist)
  • an antidote for thallium poisoning is Prussian Blue, a dark blue pigment used in paints, which can bind the metal in the intestine and prevent it from being absorbed into the body
Edit: Turns out that it was polonium-210, a highly radioactive isotope of polonium that has been used to power satellites, not thallium, that made this guy ill


5 chemically inspired comments:

Anonymous said...

I firmly disbelieve that the KGB is this incompetent- remember Victor Yuschenko, and how his dioxin soup was supposedly a KGB plot? Who's the joker who comes up with this shit? The fucking KGB had umbrellas with needles for injecting ODs of cyanide and morphine. UMBRELLAS. If they wanted to fuck this guy up, he would be so dead.

Anonymous said...

Oh whoah, I just noticed the Prussian blue thing too. You know that's also the name of a neo-nazi band consisting of like a pair of 15 year old sisters? Also supposedly the pigment which formed on the walls of the gas chambers which the Jews were murdered in during the holocaust (hence the band name I guess).

CND said...

Dude, I totally knew about the white power underage sisters folk duo but had no idea as to how to work that into the post. But yeah, according to the light of my life (Wikipedia, in case you were wondering) Prussian blue was one of the first synthetic substances ever produced. Ever.

Jacob said...

Watch The Young Poisoner's Handbook for an awesome (based on a true story) account of offing your family using thallium.

CND said...

I think I'm going to have to do that. Watch the movie, not poison my family.

Just to clear that up.