Archive for May, 2011

Thallium Poisoning, Something to Worry About in 2011?

You may have heard recently about the Chemist in New Jersey who is being tried for her husbands’ murder. While most scientist believe her accused method of poisoning, Thallium, to be old fashioned, there are still reports of its use in poisoning today. While this chemical is no longer used in over the counter pesticides it is found in cigarettes.

What are the signs of Thallium poisoning? 

In the first 48 hours after serious thallium exposure, the affected individual will usually experience nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Within a few days, symptoms of nervous system damage become apparent. These symptoms can include pain, loss of reflexes, convulsions, muscle wasting, headaches, numbness, dementia, psychosis, and even coma. After two to three weeks, characteristic changes are seen in the bases of hair shafts, and there is hair loss (alopecia). Finally, after around three weeks post-exposure, heart rhythm disturbances may occur.

Thallium poisoning can be treated. Effective treatment to prevent absorption of thallium is available if therapy is begun within six hours following ingestion. The antidote against thallium (known as potassium ferrihexacyanoferrate, or Prussian blue or Berlin blue) works by sequestering thallium molecules and preventing their absorption by the intestine. Other treatments that may be successful for victims of thallium poisoning include dialysis and medications to increase the kidneys’ excretion of thallium.

What is Thallium?

Thallium is a soft, malleable gray metal that was previously widely used in rat poisons and insecticides. Thallium itself and compounds containing the element are highly toxic. It is particularly dangerous because compounds containing thallium are colorless, odorless, and tasteless. Because of this high toxicity, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends against the use of thallium in rodent and insect poisons. However, poisons containing thallium are still in use in some parts of the world.

Small amounts of thallium are normally found in the earth’s crust and atmosphere. It is also present in small amounts in cigarette smoke. Thallium has multiple industrial uses, and certain isotopes of thallium are used in medical imaging studies. Thallium can be absorbed from the skin as well as be ingested or inhaled. If a significant amount (significant poisoning is usually defined as ingesting over 1 gram of thallium, or over 8 milligrams per kilogram of body weight) of thallium enters the body, symptoms of thallium poisoning develop.

As even Wikipedia points out, thallium was “once an effective murder weapon”, but the emphasis is one “once”. That time is long past. Forensically, it’s not the first thing that you think of, certainly, but it got picked up at autopsy in this New Jersey case. And it’s not like there’s any other way a person could get a high level of the element in their tissues, nor, with modern analytical techniques, can it be mistaken for anything else. Honestly, anyone who believes that they have a good chance of getting away with a thallium murder is just not thinking the whole business through.

ExperTox® is the expert in identifying questionable substances – call us for details.


What Happens if You Get Caught With K2 in Texas?

Recently the Texas Department of State Health Services has outlawed marijuana-like substances that are commonly found in K2, Spice and other synthetic marijuana products.

So what happens if you are caught with distributing or in possession of these substances?

After the DEA’s action, DSHS is required by state law to place the substances on the Texas Schedules of Controlled Substances.

Schedule 1, the most restrictive category on the Texas Schedules of Controlled Substances, is reserved for unsafe, highly abused substances with no accepted medical use. Five chemicals, JWH-018, JWH-073, JWH-200, CP-47, 497 and cannabicyclohexanol that are found in K2 were placed on the Schedule.

Penalties for the manufacture, sale or possession of K2 are subject to a fine not to exceed 4,000 and or confinement in jail for a term not to exceed one year.

Since January 2010, approximately 600 calls were made to the Texas Poison Center Network related to K2 exposure. Reported adverse effects associated with use of these marijuana-like substances include chest pain, heart palpitations, agitation, drowsiness, hallucinations, nausea, vomiting, dizziness and confusion.


News Media Contact: Christine Mann, DSHS Assistant Press Officer, 512-458-7511.)

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We’ve opened a New Lab!

Expertox has moved into a new building located at 1430 Center Street in Deer Park, TX 77536.

Our state of the art laboratory was designed by President Loretta Anderson and RGR Partnership, LTD. It was constructed by Tribble and Associates Contractors. The new lab space has over 3100 square feet with the option to utilize an additional 5000 square feet of off-site storage as needed.

The lab was designed with optimal workflow, employee convenience and with environmental sensitivity in mind. There are separate departments for accessioning specimen preparation, screening, EIA, ELISA, Heavy Metals ICP-MS, GC/MC, LC/MS, extraction hoods and analyzing (test data). In addition, there is a dedicated department for Certifying Scientists for reporting results.

During this time we are also upgrading our Laboratory Information System software and database. You will continue to notice changes in reporting and the website as we continue upgrading our system.

Keep on the lookout for an invitation to the Laboratory Open House in June!

K2, synthetic marijuana banned in state of Texas

K2, Synthetic Marijuana has been banned in the state of Texas. Click here the link for more info.

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ExperTox® is a recognized forensic toxicology laboratory, combining advanced technology and science with a human heart.

We use our scientific expertise to provide our customers answers to their substance abuse, use and exposure questions.

We focus our personal character on supporting, caring for and understanding what our clients are going through as they contemplate and proceed through the testing process.

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