Poison is a chemical that produce a harmful effect on a living organism. Almost any substance has the potential of being poisonous in humans if a substantial amount gains entry into the body or if the substance enter the body by the way of the wrong route. As a result, a variety of poisons exist in solid, liquid, gaseous or vaporous form. Naturally occurring poison are used by poisonous plants and animals to prevent predation or to capture prey. Synthetic poisons range from certain types of pharmaceuticals (used other than as directed) or household cleaning products to waste product of industrial and nuclear energy plants and chemical deliberately used as weapons.

Dosage, route of entry, and poetry (strength) determine if a substance is poisonous. For example, if water is accidentally inhaled into the lungs instead of being swallowed, it becomes an asphyxias poison. Whether a specific dose of a prescription drug way be safe effective for a 45-year-old man who weighs 82 kg (180 lb), the same dose may prove fatal for an 85-years-old woman weighing 45 kg (100 lb).

Poison can enter the body in many ways, depending on their chemical and physical properties. Gases such as methane, carbon monoxide, and hydrogen sulfide are inhaled. Some chemicals can penetrate the skin, and others can be poisonous if injected into the body by way of the mouth, and greatest number of poisonings in the United States occur as a result of oral ingestion. These are approximately 13,000 deaths each year in the United States as result of poisonings, and more than 80 percent of these are accidental.

Most poisonings are of the acute type, occurring in a short period of time, such as food poisoning and infections. Treatment for acute poisoning consists of supportive therapy and ridding the body of poison. Depending on the type of poison swallowed, emergency treatment may involve inducing vomiting with syrup of ipecac. In some cases, antidotes are available that counteract the effects of poison, such as nalorphine of narcotic poisonings and desferokamine for iron poisoning.

Chronic poisonings are often brought about by environment or occupational exposure to such substances as Lead or Mercury compounds, which accumulate in the body. Radiation injury from nuclear accidents, such as the one that occurred in 1886 in Chernobyl in the Soviet Union, is another example of chronic poisoning. Treatment for chronic poisoning is limited to removing the patient from exposure to the poisoning agent and providing therapy to relieve symptoms.


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