We'll explore some of the most dangerous chemicals you'll hopefully never cross paths with.
What's the most deadly substance?
Naturally produced by the Clostridium botulinum bacterium, it is also used for cosmetic surgery in very small doses. But more on this later.
There are some other seriously dangerous chemicals out there.
These include things like:
- Chlorine trifluoride (Substance N)- A nasty Nazi development. It can actually make asbestos burn apparently — more on this later.
- Azidoazide Azide - This is considered by many to be the most explosive compound ever created. It also has a pretty cool name, although its complete chemical name is 1-Diazidocarbamoyl-5-azidotetrazole.
- Dimethyl Cadmium - This is considered by some to be the most toxic chemical in the world. It is used as a reagent in organic synthesis and in metalorganic chemical vapor deposition.
- Fluoroantimonic Acid - This can be the most powerful acid ever devised, apparently. It is a mixture of hydrogen fluoride and antimony pentafluoride. Not something to be messed with!
What is the most dangerous gas in the world?
Much like the previous question, there are a lot of very dangerous gases in the world. Some of the most hazardous include the following:
- Hydrogen sulfide - In high enough concentrations, inhaling this gas results in a coma and death.
- Arsine - This gas attacks the hemoglobin in your red blood cells. At concentrations of 250 ppm, Arsine is fatal.
- Chlorine - Inhalation of chlorine at concentrations in excess of 1000 ppm is usually fatal.
There are, of course, many more nasty gases out there.
What are ten of the most dangerous chemicals?
There are many chemicals out there that can potentially cause serious harm or even death. Here are 10 of them.
1. Batrachotoxin isn't very good for you
Batrachotoxin is one of the most potent non-peptide based poisons known to man. It is commonly utilized in poison darts from, funnily enough, poison-dart frogs.
It is a highly potent steroidal alkaloid that is cardiotoxic and neurotoxic. To date, no antidote has been developed.
Interestingly, there is evidence that in order for the frogs to secrete the chemical, they need to have a diet that includes Melyrid beetles. The mechanism for this not yet understood fully, but it is believed that the melyrid beetle accumulates batrachotoxin, or its precursors, through its diet.
2. Chlorine trifluoride is highly corrosive
Chlorine trifluoride is famous for its ability to corrode glass. It is a so-called interhalogen compound that is colorless, highly corrosive, and an extremely reactive chemical.
It is mainly used as a component of rocket fuel and can only really be stored in fluorine-treated metal containers. When this nasty chemical meets water, it results in a highly explosive reaction.
3. Potassium cyanide has killed some notable people in the past
Potassium cyanide is a highly poisonous chemical that kills in minutes. For this reason, it has historically been used as a suicide pill by some prominent people in history.
Victims include the likes of Eva Braun (Hitler's longtime partner), Joseph Goebbels, Heinrich Himmler, Alan Turing, and many more. It is also used by professional entomologists as a killing agent in collecting jars, for particularly sensitive insect specimens.
4. VX is used in chemical weapons
VX can enter the body through inhalation or absoption into the skin and doesn't easily break down in the environment. Exposure to VX kills by severely disrupting the signaling between the nervous and muscular systems, leading to a prolonged paralysis of all the muscles in the body including the diaphragm, causing death by asphyxiation
5. Botulinum toxin A, also known as Botox
Botox, or Botulinum toxin A, is a very common cosmetic chemical that also happens to be one of the most toxic chemicals found in nature. This neurotoxic protein is produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum and other related species.
It is so toxic that just 1.3-2.1 ng/kg of it would be enough to kill someone if injected. So you might well ask, why is it used in cosmetic surgery?
Because of its ability to paralyze muscles, it is ideally suited for treating things like wrinkles, and prevents muscle spasms when used in extremely small doses.
6. Ricin is pretty nasty
Ricin is widely known as a highly dangerous chemical. Yet it can be readily found in the seeds of castor oil plants.
It is a highly potent toxin and a dose the size of just a few grains of table salt will kill a human outright. Ricin was investigated for a time for its potential applications in war, but interest was ultimately turned to the weaponization of sarin instead.
7. Sarin will kill you in minutes
Sarin is widely considered to be a potential weapon of mass destruction by many authorities. To this end, its production and stockpiling was completely outlawed by the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993, and it is classified as a Schedule 1 substance.
8. Strychnine has been rumored to have killed Alexander the Great
Strychnine is an old favorite for assassins and poisoners throughout history. While it is usually employed to dispatch unwanted pests, it can be used on humans too.
It has been rumored in the past that it might have been used to kill historical figures like Alexander the Great and Robert Johnson, the famous Blues musician.
9. Nicotine is actually pretty potent
Nicotine was developed by plants as a defense mechanism against pests. For this reason, it happens to be one of the most potent toxins in the world.
Apart from being highly addictive in low doses, but it would actually be fatal if you exposed yourself to enough of it. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), exposure to 5 mg/m3 of nicotine is "immediately dangerous to life and health".
10. Sodium cyanide will kill you in seconds
Sodium cyanide is routinely used as an industrial reactant. But exposure to it will result in the smell of almonds followed by death within seconds.
Cyanide binds to cytochrome c oxidase, a protein in the mitochondria, and stops the cells from using oxygen.
And that's all folks. Have we omitted any other potent chemicals?