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wanda

cyanide

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Hello,

I'm a writer. A character in my story commits suicide in a high school science lab. I based this character on a real life event from about 15 years ago. I remembered that the boy covered his mouth with formaldehyde, but as everyone here probably knows, that's unlikely to have happened. For the metaphor that I've set up to work, the child needs to do it in the lab, and I'm having a dickens of a time figuring out how to do it. Will anyone help me?

Wanda

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How authentic does the story need to be?

Does it matter if he kills himself with some poison with a made-up name? If so then you might want to use that idea- it avoids any question of you getting sued later when some dimwit tops themself and their distraught parents say that it's your fault.

Also made-up poisons can have any set of symptoms and speed of action you like.

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Chemistry is not really my thing, but I'm sure there are any number of things you might find in a lab that would kill you if you ingested them or breathed them in (pure sodium, chlorine gas, maybe mercury), but I think most of them are probably pretty horrible deaths and not nearly as quick and relatively painless as cyanide.

 

He could just pump methane into a face mask and breathe it in. It's not toxic, but you will suffocate, and it might (I'm hardly an expert) just be like falling asleep. I guess that wouldn't be as "cool" as some exotic poison, though.

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i've actually heard of an incident where a student ingested potassium cyanide in front of his/her colleagues. One of my old group members did the same thing, but in private.

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Im no chemist, but perhaps ricen would be something to think about.

 

Perhaps eating castor beans from the bio lab?

 

I like the cyanide idea. Maybe NaCN spilled on some generic acid, and then death by fumes.

 

Drinking methanol? Or massive amounts of ethanol/ether?

 

Dimethyformamide and a poison (cyanide again...)?

 

All sorts of ways, I guess.

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Drinking methanol? Or massive amounts of ethanol/ether?

 

Haha so classic.. yep, all sorts of things to fill your creative mind with... tomarrow ill post a good list if noones done it yet.

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I like the cyanide idea. Maybe NaCN spilled on some generic acid, and then death by fumes.

 

 

there's a short book by Isaac Asimov called "a whiff of death", which is based on just that kind of thing. It also has a clever attempt at murder involving smearing oil on an oxygen cylinder

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Drinking potassium hydroxide might give you a heart attack. Not sure of this, and it would probably be too bitter for someone to do in real life.

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Drinking potassium hydroxide might give you a heart attack. Not sure of this, and it would probably be too bitter for someone to do in real life.

 

Do you mean from the pain caused by the corrosive chemical burning holes in you from the inside?

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On the topic of mercury the liquid metal isn't really that toxic at all. It absorbs so poorly that for example an accidental breaking of a mercury thermometer in your mouth isn't likely to result in mercury poisoning. Mercury vapor is more toxic but it won't kill fast. Organic mercury compounds are very toxic but they aren't exactly high school lab material (and probably won't kill very fast either).

 

Iodine comes to mind, a few grams is enough to kill and it's commonly found in powder form in chemistry labs.

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Do you mean from the pain caused by the corrosive chemical burning holes in you from the inside?

 

Well, the ratio of potassium to sodium is important to maintain, and injecting potassium chloride would cause a heart attack. Drinking potassium hydroxide would result in some of it reacting with hydrochloric acid in your stomach and being absorbed as potassium chloride, but I don't know if that would cause a heart attack. Of course, the potassium hydroxide could be neutralized with hydrochloric acid first, so it is salt water instead of something too bitter for anyone to drink in real life.

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the problem with KOH is its super corrosive, any person alive would spit it out amiditly. Better choses are hydrogen flouride and hydrogen azide,uncommon, easy to make, and super fast acting.

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As Mr. Skeptic said, your best (worst?) bet would be just injecting KCl.

 

Anesthetize with ether and shoot KCl? Science seems to be solid for it.

 

This thread is more than a little scary :eek:

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People eat potassium compounds (not the hydroxide) If they don't, they get sick and die.

http://www.eatwell.gov.uk/healthydiet/nutritionessentials/vitaminsandminerals/potassium/

The body can do a pretty good job of excreting excess potassium so it's quite difficult to kill someone with it.

It does happen from time to time in hospitals where a patient needs potassium. The doctor prescribes it and says it should be added to an intravenous drip. If it is accidentally injected directly (or if a dense strong solution of KCl is added to the drip bag, but settles to the bottom of the bag) it stops the heart, but you need a sudden, large dose to do that.

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Exactly. KCl is a VERY common salt substitute for those who are sensitive to sodium. The only way I've ever heard of potassium salts being toxic to people are when it is injected intravenously and it immediately goes to the heart before the kidneys can filter it out.

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Thanks for your support but I will add that KCl sold as a "salt substitute" has added NaCl (in my experience) and I'm not sure if that's because it tastes better or to make sure that the toxicity is trivial.

OTOH potassium based fertilisers are not labelled as toxic.

 

To get back to the OP; couldn't the guy just kill himself by blowing the lab to kingdom come with as gas explosion?

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It's the ratio of K to Na that is most important.

 

As to killing yourself with a gas explosion, I would think that would be unreliable and irresponsible.

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As to killing yourself with a gas explosion, I would think that would be unreliable and irresponsible.

 

Depends on how big you make it :eyebrow:

 

Asphyxiation via gas (either CH4 or N2) in an enclosed lab perhaps?

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Im sorry for not posting that long list, I really thought I would... See you have alot of people here with lack of expirements to perform. Alkalai metal in your mouth would be funny and very gory/painfull.....

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how about something a bit more realistic, like he pulls out a gun.

and after pointing it sideways at people and calling them bitch a few times, turns it on himself?

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how about something a bit more realistic, like he pulls out a gun.

and after pointing it sideways at people and calling them bitch a few times, turns it on himself?

 

But where's the fun in that? The gun could at least set off the broken gas line, blowing up the lab, thereby spraying the people he was pissed off at with the cyanide he had originally been intending to kill himself with.

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How about he makes a huge cocktail of pshychoactives, Then goes crazy and turns the bunson burner on himself... Or same but breaks a beaker and slices his throat open, or breaths an inert gas as to euthanasia, or throws acid on his face.... Yes I love gory flicks.....

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Some fluorides also come to mind... Like KF. Likely to be more effective than chlorides but I don't know if they're as common in chemistry labs.

 

The more I think about it I can't really come up with anything "better" than hydrogen cyanide. I also tried to figure out some sort of explosive mixture or compound that could be done in a relatively short time but couldn't think of any that could be lethal in such a short time or small amounts. Also regarding possible collateral damage that's not very considerate if the guy has given thought to that.

 

On the topic of cyanide this is perhaps one of the most touching suicide cases I've ever read about (with the "Do not resuscitate" note and all): http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?sec=health&res=9D00E5DB1F30F93AA15752C1A96E958260

Edited by Gilded

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