aka Toxicology Conundrum 027
As you review a patient you notice an unusual scent about his person…welcome to the ‘Sniff a Poison‘ Challenge!
How this works
Below is a list of odo(u)rs. For each different odour try to identify the poison(s) or toxin(s) that can give rise to it – then click on the odour (in blue) to show/hide the answer. If there are multiple answers, the number of answers listed is shown in brackets.
- (its good to get off to an easy start…)
- (40% of people are genetically incapable of smelling this)
Burnt rope (2)
- isopropyl alcohol
- chloral hydrate
- nitrites (amyl, butyl)
- inorganic arsenicals and arsine gas
- dimethyl sulfoxide
Fish or raw liver (musty) (3)
- zinc phosphide
- aluminum phosphide
- nickel carbonyl
- methylsalicylate (Oil of Wintergreen)
- chloral hydrate
- o-chlorobenzylidene malonitrile (CS or tear gas)
- pine oil
Rotten eggs (5)
- Hydrogen sulfide (olfactory fatigue occurs after about 15 minutes at the potentially toxic level of 50 ppm. This happens even faster at higher concentrations – so the victim is at least spared the stench of rotten eggs…)
- carbon disulfide
- N-acetylcysteine (antidote)
- acetic acid
- hydrofluoric acid
- turpentine (urinary metabolites)
The bonus question:
Q. A bite by which Australian snake could seriously impair your performance on the ‘Sniff a Poison’ challenge?
Potentially any of them!
However, at least one species can specifically impair the victim’s sense of smell: the Red-bellied Black Snake, Pseudechis porphyriacus, one of Australia’s most striking and beautiful snakes.
Victims may experience permanent alterations in their olfactory sense. Abnormalities include anosmia (loss of smell), cacosmia (the sensation of a foul smell – not good), dysosmia (a distorted perception of smell) and even phantosmia (the sensation of smell without stimulus).
- Flomenbaum N, et al (2006). Goldfrank’s Toxicologic Emergencies (8th edition). McGraw-Hill Professional.
- Sutherland SK, Tibballs J (2001). Australian animal toxins: the creatures, their toxins and care of the poisoned patient (2nd edition). Oxford University Press.
LITFL Toxicology Challenges