10 Most Dangerous Substances Known To Man

10 VX This synthetic compound was created as a military chemical weapon after its discovery in 1952

And as one of the deadliest nerve agents known to man, it’s unsurprisingly extremely dangerous, so much so that it’s been declared a weapon of mass destruction According to the Council on Foreign relations, just a fraction of a teaspoon, or 10 miligrams, is enough to cause fatal disruption to the nervous system Appearing as a clear oily substance, VX has been used in the Angolan civil war and possibly in the Halabja attack under Saddam Hussein in 1988 But probably the most famous example of VX use came in February 2017, in the case of Kim Jong Un’s brother, Kim Jong Nam Nam died of VX exposure after being sprayed by an assailant at Kuala Lumpur airport, in what is thought to have been an assassination by the North Korean state

9 Arsenic Now this one has admittedly been outclassed by more modern toxins, but it has such a long history that it still deserves a place on the list The poison was known about as early as 400 BC, but wasn’t properly classified until Scientist Albertus Magnus came along in 1250 AD Over its history, arsenic has caused the deaths of everyone from Napoleon Bonaparte to King George III and the Chinese Emperor Guangxu Some have even speculated that it was used to kill Alexander the Great

In terms of how it works, Arsenic kills by disrupting the process that produces ATP, a molecule that allows energy to transfer around the body Eventually that causes muscle failure and cell death Nowadays Arsenic is eminently treatable once you know it’s in you, but for most of its history, it was hard to know if you had been exposed to it, and even harder to treat 8 Tetrodotoxin This potent neurotoxin has a high-end estimate of 200 cases annually with a 50% fatality rate

So you may think that it’s some kind of terror weapon Actually, it’s far from it Almost all cases of tetrodotoxin come from poor seafood preparation Simpsons fans will remember Homer’s fugu poisoning from improperly prepared pufferfish But what’s actually threatening his life is the Tetrodotoxin found in the liver of said fish, and can be found in many others too

Just 2 milligrams of Tetrodotoxin can be lethal through blocking nerve signals, causing the heart and lungs to fail But despite that, Fugu is still a delicacy in Japan, since it’s well known how to properly prepare them However, many tourists and inexperienced fisherman are been poisoned each year by trying it themselves There was even a major scare in January 2018 when a supermarket sold Fugu with the liver included The government was so worried that it made recall announcements in the streets with public loudspeakers

7 Ricin I’m willing to bet you already know about this one from Breaking Bad, and if not, why are you watching this? Go watch Breaking Bad! In any case, Ricin is a highly toxic, naturally occurring substance derived from the castor bean Just 178 milligrams can be toxic to an average person when injected or inhaled Not only that, but since ricin resembles table salt, it’s scarily easy to sneak into food, especially considering the fact that ingesting less than a tenth of a gram can be fatal

Because of that, Ricin has a history of use in political assassinations and terrorist threats Bulgarian political dissident Georgi Markov died of Ricin poisoning in a high profile case in 1978 In true cold war style, the defector-turned-BBC journalist was killed using a pellet jabbed in his leg through an umbrella Even as recently as 2013, President Obama was sent Ricin in the mail in what was presumably a failed assassination attempt 6

Strychnine Like arsenic, strychnine is one of the more historical toxins on this list, but unlike arsenic, it’s about the least subtle way to poison someone Strychnine kills through asphyxiation, but not after an extremely painful bout of tetanus-like stiffness around the neck, jaw and abdomen Because of that, it’s pretty obvious when someone dies of strychnine poisoning, unlike other toxins that often require toxicology tests Strychnine comes from the Alkaloid family, which are substances that grow on plants to ward off predators, but tend to have a physiological effect on humans Think caffeine, cocaine and nicotine

That’s why olympic runner Thomas Hicks took it in the 1904 games, since it causes a rush of nervous energy Historically, Strychnine was used to kill everyone from Jane Stanford of Stanford University fame to Turkish president Turgut Özal and possibly Alexander the Great… again Ancient history isn’t exactly clear on medical diagnoses 5 Batrachotoxin Another natural substance, Batrachotoxin was discovered in 1963 in the secretions of a species of frog called Phyllobates terribilis in Western Colombia

And interestingly, the toxin also appears in the only three species of poisonous birds thanks to their diets, all of which are native to New Guinea The poison works by opening the sodium channels in your nerves, which disrupts cell membranes, damages signal transition to the muscles and ultimately causes cardiac failure If the word terribilis doesn’t give you a clue, Batrachotoxin is extremely toxic Just 100 micrograms are lethal to people, and wild frogs that carry it are thought to hold enough to kill 2 bull elephants Though you probably know them better by their other name, poison dart frogs

That’s because the toxin is used by indigenous colombian cultures to poison dip darts for hunting animals, and apparently every 80s adventure movie hero 4 Maitotoxin Now this is a strange one Maitotoxin is in theory incredibly deadly, with just a few micrograms proving lethal, but the pure substance isn’t really something that comes into contact with humans in high enough doses to kill them outright However, it normally affects us in the form of Ciguatera Fish Poisoning, which passes through the food chain from marine animals like barracudas, groupers and snappers

Ciguatera poisoning can have long lasting effects though, including cardiovascular problems, muscle weakness and psychiatric disorders The toxin is secreted by Gambierdiscus Toxicus, a species of marine algae that’s mostly found in French Polynesia, but what makes it fascinating is its unusual structure Since it's such a complex molecule and it’s only toxic in its complete form, scientists are hopeful that parts of it could be used to treat Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases 3 Polonium Since it’s only found in nuclear reactors and under the earth’s crust for fleeting periods of time, Polonium is one of the rarest elements around

So chances are you’re safe, unless you get on the wrong dictator’s nerves This radioactive element has no biological uses and it’s incredibly toxic, 250,000 times worse than cyanide In theory, ingesting just 50 nanograms is lethal, and 1 gram could kill 10 million people Unlike most of this list, which tends to affect the nerves, Polonium poisoning resembles the late stages of cancer, with symptoms like hair loss, nausea, and vomiting, as well as both liver and kidney damage But it’s best known for the assassination of Alexander Litvinenko, the former FSB agent whose death was thought to be ordered by Vladimir Putin in 2004, and possibly the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in 2012, whose toothbrush and clothing were found with high levels of the substance

2 Novichok This term covers the range of nerve agents designed by Russia from the 1970s to the 1990s, though you might be more familiar with them due to their news coverage as part of the poisonings of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in 2018 These poisons were designed to circumvent the standards of the Chemical Weapons Convention and avoid NATO chemical detection equipment They work by inhibiting certain enzymes in the body and causing involuntary convulsions of skeletal muscles, which goes on to cause heart failure or suffocation – whichever one kills you first That sounds scary enough, but it gets even worse when you consider their potency

The chemical agent known as A-232, or Novichok-5, is between 5 and 8 times as deadly as VX These agents have never been used on the battlefield, but their use against the Skripals is seen as an indication that Russia was behind the attack, though it vehemently denies it 1Botulinum toxins You’re probably familiar with botox, the injection that celebrities get to avoid looking their age Well, the reason it makes your skin look plump and youthful is also why the active ingredient is one of the most deadly toxins known to man

Botulinum toxin comes from a bacterium called Clostridium botulinum [Closs-trid-ee-um Bot-you-lie-num], exposure to which can cause the disease botulism Sufferers experience disruptions to nerve functions, flaccid paralysis and ultimately death In small doses though, it can make skin look youthful through lack of movement But in 2013, Botulinum was really pushed over the edge when scientists discovered a new form of the toxin, called type H, which is so potent that just 2 billionths of a gram could kill an adult In fact, type H is so toxic that for the first time ever, it’s DNA sequence has been hidden from the public record over fears that it could be used as a chemical weapon

That was the 10 Deadliest Substances Known to Man Did we miss any out? Let us know in the comments and make sure to like and subscribe While you’re at it, check out this great Alltime10s video on screen now

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