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The Deadliest Poisons on the Planet

Plamena M.Plamena M.

There are thousands of toxic substances on our planet. When we hear the word "poison", most of the time we might think of arsenic, cyanide and other similar ones. However, these are by no means the most toxic substances on Earth. Here we've collected the 5 truly deadly poisonous substances, which are 1000 times more toxic that anything you've seen or heard about until now.

5. Ricin

Ricin is obtained from the seeds of the Ricinus communis plant. The plant yields castor oil as well but the real toxic ricin remains in the plant fibers. A prominent glycoprotein, it disrupts protein synthesis in cells and causes cell death. A mere few grains of pure ricin are enough to kill an adult human.

4. VX

The 4th toxic substance is the only synthetic one on our top 5 list. VX is a nerve agent having the consistency of machine oil. It was created by accident during development of a new type of insecticide. The compound kills by disrupting nerve impulse transmissions, neutralizing the enzyme known as acetylcholinesterase. This leads to a loss of muscle control and death, usually as a result of suffocation. The respiratory muscles stop working properly and the person dies as a result of lack of oxygen.

3. Batrachotoxin

South American natives use small darts to hunt various animals. They are drenched with poison. The most toxic of these comes from, you guessed it, poison dart frogs, and is called batrachotoxin. All it takes is a few crystals of it to kill a person on the spot.

Interestingly, those same types of frogs kept in captivity are not poisonous. Scientists explain that the fatal molecules come from the beetles they eat in their natural habitat. Those same are also found in some birds, although the toxic effects in them are less potent.

2. Maitotoxin


The deadliest toxin that's linked to harmful algal blooms in the ocean. It most often leads to poisoning upon consumption of polluted clams. Maitotoxin is produced by a species of phytoplankton and has a complex structure. It's considered a cardiotoxin that increases the flow of calcium ions through the membrane of the cross-striated muscle cells in the heart. This causes heart failure. It is among the most potent toxins known to man, with one of the most complex chemical structures.

1. Botulinum Toxin

This is currently the most toxic known compound on the planet. It is produced by anaerobic bacteria. Just 1 nanogram per 2 lb (1 kg) of body weight is enough to kill a person.

The toxin was first recognized during improper preparation of sausages at the end of the 18th century. At the time, a number of people became poisoned by the compound. There are several types of botulinum toxin, the most potent being type A. Ingestion of any one of them leads to muscle paralysis, preventing the release of the signal molecule acetylcholine. This disrupted function in turn causes suffocation and death.

The paralyzing ability of the compound is also used in aesthetic and mainstream medicine. For example, botulinum toxin is used in the cosmetic product known as Botox, as well as a number of clinical conditions, such as muscle paralysis, which if not treated, may cause strabismus.