The chemical poison that killed the female chemist

  Bizarre   death One day in January 1997, 48-year-old American female chemist Karen Wittharn was admitted to the emergency room because of severe neurosensory degradation. Karen told the nurse that she had lost 7 kilograms of weight in two months, and she had been suffering from abdominal pain. She felt that she was poisoned.
  In fact, Dr. Karen is a professor of chemistry at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, specializing in the effects of toxic metals on the human body. She is a well-known scientist. No one in the world knows more about the problem of metal poisoning than she does. However, Karen did not know what was wrong with her body.
  About five months ago, Karen was still studying the effects of mercury ions on proteins and DNA, and she used an organic mercury, dimethylmercury, for a chemical experiment. When transferring the chemical reagents, two drops of dimethylmercury dripped from the pipette, just on her latex gloves. Considering that dimethyl mercury was highly toxic, immediately after this accident, Karen opened the ventilated kitchen and took all necessary safety measures known at the time to clean up the experimental site. Her hands sweated a lot, and her latex gloves were wet Yes, Karen doesn’t think he has direct contact with dimethyl mercury.
  But in the next few weeks, Karen started to show some strange symptoms. Although Karen looks normal from the outside, she occasionally loses her energy, walks and hits a pillar, and almost accidentally drives. As time went on, Karen’s body became weaker. After 5 months, she could not keep her balance while walking, her words were crooked, her vision was blurred, and her fingers became numb.
  The doctor immediately performed a body fluid examination on Karen. The results showed that the concentration of mercury in Karen’s blood was thousands of times the normal value, and the concentration of mercury in urine was hundreds of times the normal value. The doctor immediately determined that Karen’s poisoning was caused by excessive intake of mercury. Later, the doctor tried to use chelation therapy to remove mercury from her body, but was unsuccessful. Three weeks later, Karen was in a coma, her brain was completely damaged, and she had no response to sound, light, or touch. In June 1997, Karen died of ineffective treatment.
  Dangerous substance
  There are many questions that have puzzled doctors in diagnosing Karen’s condition. First of all, Karen was wearing latex gloves during her experiments, so why was she exposed to poison? In addition, after the patient is poisoned, if he does not continue to contact the poison, the phenomenon of neurosensory degradation will gradually weaken. Karen did not go to the laboratory for a long time after the accident, but her illness became more and more serious until she died. Why is this?
  Karen’s death was a major loss to the scientific community and shocked US health regulators. American scientists have begun to re-examine the toxic substance dimethylmercury. After a lot of research, the scientists took a cool breath and found that this substance turned out to be so dangerous.
  It turns out that dimethyl mercury is not only flammable and volatile, but also can dissolve various rubber products, and latex gloves can’t stop it at all. Karen was poisoned because dimethylmercury penetrated the hypothetical glove and penetrated into the body from the skin of her hand. Scientists made estimates based on the mercury content in Karen’s hair. The results showed that when Karen first came into contact with two drops of dimethylmercury solution, she absorbed 1,440 mg of mercury, while the human body’s mercury content reached 400 mg. It is in danger of death.
  After dimethyl mercury invades the body, its toxicity will slowly develop. It is lipophilic and can be easily absorbed by the body. As a result, only 5% of dimethylmercury remains in the blood, and the other 95% slowly builds up in fat-rich organs, such as the brain (most of the brain’s substances are fat). After exposure to dimethylmercury, even if Karen no longer conducts experiments, dimethylmercury will continue to accumulate in neural organs such as the brain, destroying cells and killing neurons.
  In addition, the traditional detoxification organ, the liver, can be said to have no counterattack. In general, many toxic substances can be degraded in the liver and then excreted. But dimethylmercury is not the same. It will be converted into another organic mercury in the liver-methylmercury. Methylmercury is also lipophilic and can generate free radicals to damage body tissues. Therefore, only two drops of dimethylmercury caused irreparable harm, which directly killed a female chemist who was in his prime.
  After Karen’s death, Dartmouth College set up a science award named “Wittharn”. This award is designed to encourage other women to pursue a career in science and at the same time to make people want to keep those deadly chemically toxic Be vigilant and avoid the tragedy from happening again.