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By Rochel Burstyn

In honor of Purim — and Bigsan and Teresh’s foiled attempts — we’re exploring poisons…

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

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on’t touch that! It’s poisonous!”

We know to stay away from poisons. But slight problem: poisons are everywhere! There are poisons right this very second in your kitchen. Your garage. Your bathroom. Maybe your backyard or local park. Probably in your briefcase. Eek! Well, you know what they say: know the enemy, so you know what to avoid.

What is a poison?

Basically, it’s something that can hurt you in any way.

Poisons come in many forms and is found in many everyday products. They can be a smell (like bleach), or a gas (like carbon monoxide). Poisons can be found in cleaning supplies, pesticides, supplies for the car, and even makeup.

Poisons can also be found in some mushrooms, plants, and even trees. You’ve probably heard of poison ivy, but have you heard of the manchineel tree? It’s the most dangerous tree in the world. Its sap is so poisonous that the slightest touch can cause a breakout of blisters.


It’s even dangerous to take shelter under it when it rains because the raindrops might contain blister-causing tree sap. The tree grows small green apples, commonly called “death apples” because even a single bite can cause severe pain and even death.


Especially Australia…

Ever gone to your local zoo, checked out the most dangerous snakes, and said, “Hey, a lot of these seem to come from Australia!” If so, you aren’t mistaken. Nobody quite knows why, but Australia has the deadliest snakes, spiders, and jellyfish on the planet. It even has venomous ants. There’s even a jellyfish smaller than a human fingernail that contains venom 100 times more poisonous than a cobra and 1,000 times more powerful than a tarantula.

Poisonous or Venomous?

The truth is, many people use the words interchangeably, but they do actually mean different things.

Venomous creatures stab, sting, or bite to do their damage, so they generally have teeth or fangs.

When an animal is poisonous, you have to bite or touch it to feel the effects.

Why do people use poisons?

In the olden days, it was common to shoot a poison-tipped arrow at an animal while hunting… or serve a disliked dinner guest something you wouldn’t eat or drink yourself. It became a popular way of getting rid of an enemy, but as poisons became more popular so did the cures for these poisons (called antidotes) and folks began surviving their murder attempts.

Mithridates VI (135 – 63 BCE), the king of Pontus (much of the area surrounding the Black Sea), was famous for his fear of being poisoned and always looked for antidotes. He used to test different poisons on criminals facing execution (Hey, they’re going to die anyhow…) and then try out the antidotes on them too (Ooops, he survived… great, I’ll keep this one!). He’s also famous for testing poisons on himself. (Excerpted from Mishpacha Jr., Issue 699)

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