NJ thallium murder, laundry pods repackaged, Dr. Oz claims redemption: Weekly Web Review in Toxicology

July 14, 2013, 2:14 pm


Was Dr. Oz right about arsenic and apple juice?: In 2011, Dr. Mehmet raised questions about levels of arsenic found in some commercial apple juices on his syndicated TV show.This week, ABC News reported that, for the first time, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration was considering establishing limits on the amount of inorganic arsenic allowed in apple juice. Apparently, Consumer Reports recently tested 88 juices and found that 10% had inorganic arsenic levels greater than that allowed in drinking water (10 parts per billion). Unfortunately, the ABC report does not make clear how much higher some levels were. This still seems to TPR to be many an public relations and political problem, and not a proven medical one. Although Dr. Oz says “we believe” that the small amounts of arsenic in juice can cause heart disease, cancer, skin disease, and developmental delays, he doesn’t say who “we” are, or what the belief is based on. Sabrina Tavernise in the New York Times provides coverage with helpful addition detail on context.

Proctor & Gamble repackages Tide Laundry Pods:A year and a half after P&G brought Tide Laundry Pods onto the market, P&G announced that they are changing the packaging to make the pods look less like candy. This comes after the American Association of Poison Control Centers issued an alert stating that in 2012 alone, they received over 6200 reports of children 5 years of age and under being exposed to this highly concentrated detergent. Oral exposures present with vomiting and wheezing. Some children become drowsy and may require intubation and ventilation. Corneal injuries can also occur. TPR has reported on this problem previously.

Chemist convicted of murdering estranged husband with thallium: On Wired, Deborah Blum (@deborahblum) provides must-read follow-up to the case of Xiaoye Wang, a 39-year-old New Jersey computer engineer who, in November 2011, was admitted to hospital with a puzzling array of symptoms: malaise, nausea, arthralgias, and tremors. He went on to develop hair loss and stocking-glove paresthesias. Although physicians were apparently puzzled, an astute nurse remembered hearing about a similar case caused by thallium toxicity. Tests showed that levels of thallium in Wang’s body were “off the charts”. Despite treatment with the antidote, Prussian Blue, Wang died 2 months later. This week, his estranged wife — a research chemist at Bristol-Myers-Squibb — was convicted of this murder.In addition to recounting details in this case in her post, Blum also gives a history of thallium as a murder weapon, both in real life and in literature.

Scotland Police – “Green Rolex” contains deadly mix of designer drugs: Laboratory tests of have confirmed a lethal mixture of illegal drugs in fake ecstasy (“Green Rolex”( pills that have been associated with deaths of at least 7 people in Scotland as well as others throughout the United Kingdom. Drugs identified have included PMA, PMMA, BZP, along with ecstasy itself (MDMA).

Tox Lecture of the Week: Dr. Jon B. Cole, the medical director of the Hennepin Regional Poison Center in Minnesota, gives an excellent 40-minute lecture on “Therapies for Poison-induced Cardiogenic Shock”, emphasizing use of high-dose-insulin, and intravenous fat emulsion. The talk, posted on HQMedEd, can be viewed by clicking here.

WebMD has provided a visual guide to commonly abused prescription and OTC drugs (Tip  o’ the hat to @ToxTalk)..




  1. Lisa Booze Says:

    The WebMD slideshow on photos of commonly abused drugs that you recommend in your July 14th posting is out-of-date. For example, the photos for OxyContin are the old tablets with “OC” on them instead of the newer formualtion with “OP”. Percocet and Percodan have differnet markings now also (i.e. “Percocet 5” and not “Percocet Dupont”). I suspect others in the slideshow have changed due to reformulations, or will change in the near future, especially oxycodone/acetaminophen and hydrocodone/acetaminophen combinations tablets as the dose of acetaminophen is reduced per FDA requirements.

  2. Leon Says:


    Thank you for pointing this out. If an updated version appears, I’ll link to it.