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Definition Of A Poison
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=Phosphorus= is usually found in small, waxy-looking cylinders, which
are kept in water to prevent oxidation. It may also occur as the
amorphous non-poisonous variety, a red opaque infusible substance,
insoluble in carbon disulphide. Ordinary phosphorus is soluble in oil,
alcohol, ether, chloroform, and carbon disulphide; insoluble in water.
It is much used in rat poisons, made into a paste with flour, sugar,
fat, and Prussian blue. Yellow phosphorus is not allowed to be used in
the manufacture of lucifer matches, and the importation of such is
prohibited. In 'safety' matches the amorphous phosphorus is on the box.
Symptoms.--At first those of an irritant poison, but days may elapse
before any characteristic symptoms appear, and these may be mistaken for
those of acute yellow atrophy of the liver. The earliest signs are a
garlicky taste in the mouth and pain in the throat and stomach. Vomited
matter luminous in the dark, bile-stained or bloody, with garlic-like
odour. Great prostration, diarrhoea, with bloody stools. Harsh, dry,
yellow skin, purpuric spots with ecchymoses under the skin and mucous
membranes, retention or suppression of urine, delirium, convulsions,
coma, and death. Usually there are remissions for two to three days,
then jaundice comes on, with enlargement of the liver; hæmorrhages from
the mucous surfaces and under the skin; later, coma and convulsions. In
chronic cases there is fatty degeneration of most of the organs and
tissues of the body. The inhalation of the fumes of phosphorus, as in
making vermin-killers, etc., gives rise to 'phossy-jaw.'
Post-Mortem Appearances.--Softening of the stomach, hæmorrhagic spots
on all organs and under the skin, fatty degeneration of liver, kidneys,
and heart, blood-stained urine, phosphorescent contents of alimentary
Treatment.--Early use of stomach-pump and emetics, followed by the
administration of permanganate of potassium or peroxide of hydrogen to
oxidize the phosphorus. Oil should not be given. Sulphate and carbonate
of magnesium, mucilaginous drinks. Sulphate of copper is a valuable
antidote, both as an emetic and as forming an insoluble compound with
Fatal Dose.--One grain and a half.
Fatal Period.--Four hours; more commonly two to four days.
Detection of Phosphorus in Organic Mixtures.--Mitscherlich's method is
the best. Introduce the suspected material into a retort. Acidulate with
sulphuric acid to fix any ammonia present. Distil in the dark, through
a glass tube kept cool by a stream of water. As the vapour passes over
and condenses, a flash of light is perceived, which is the test.
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