Metaldehyde - Accidental annihilator of slimy things (and occasionally people)

  • cyclic polymer of acetaldehyde (like paraldehyde only more grandiose) that has a funky-lookin' chemical structure
  • first used as a combustible fuel ("meta-fuel" tablets) in Europe in the 1920s
  • discovered to be an effective molluscicide (murders innocent slugs and snails) by accident in the 1930s
    • how it apparently happened: "A lady who was using [metaldehyde] to heat her curling tongs threw the remains out the window afterwards and observed an assemblage of dead slugs"
  • has also been in cloud seeding experiments
  • in addition to molluscs, is toxic to all other animals, and has been reported to be responsible for poisonings of pets, wild animals, and birds
  • toxicity in humans is generally mild (gut pain, dizziness, barfing, seizures) but occasionally fatal
    • its toxic effects may be produced directly or by its metabolites, which include acetaldehyde (acetaldehyde poisoning produces a similar symptom complex)
    • death is usually the result of the depression of brain regions responsible for controlling your lungs and heart
  • has been shown to reduce brain levels of norepinephrine and serotonin in mice, and this effect was reduced with clonidine or diazepam
- Homeida AM, Cooke RG. Pharmacological aspects of metaldehyde poisoning in mice. J Vet Pharmacol Ther. 1982 Mar;5(1):77-81.
- Longstreth WT Jr, Pierson DJ. Metaldehyde poisoning from slug bait ingestion. West J Med. 1982 Aug;137(2):134-7. No abstract available.
- Shih CC et al. Acute metaldehyde poisoning in Taiwan. Vet Hum Toxicol. 2004 Jun;46(3):140-3.
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metaldehyde

1 chemically inspired comments:

O'Flannabhra said...

nature's stop sign