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Cause of Death: Toxins. “Bodies of Evidence” Unit Notes #3. What is a toxin?. A “toxin” is a substance that produces damaging effects on a biological system or organism. Any substance can be a toxin in a large enough amount. Identifying a Toxin as Cause of Death. In the External Exam:

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Cause of Death: Toxins


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    1. Cause of Death: Toxins “Bodies of Evidence” Unit Notes #3

    2. What is a toxin? • A “toxin” is a substance that produces damaging effects on a biological system or organism. • Any substance can be a toxin in a large enough amount

    3. Identifying a Toxin as Cause of Death • In the External Exam: • Stains on clothing or skin • Blisters, burns • Injection marks • Unusual odors

    4. Identifying a Toxin as Cause of Death • In the Internal Exam: • Unusual odors • Inflammation or burns • Discolored or misshapen organs

    5. Identifying a Toxin as Cause of Death • In the Lab: • We have to select specific toxins to look for • Screening test first • Instrumental analysis second

    6. Where to Find Toxins • Body fluids • Blood • Urine • Hair • Organs • Stomach • Kidneys • Lungs • Liver • Brain

    7. Classes of Toxins • Acids and Bases • Examples: ammonia, bleach, any acid • Indications: burns • Skin • Mouth • Stomach

    8. Classes of Toxins • Metals • Examples: arsenic, thallium, potassium • Indications: can look like a long, slow illness • Will show up in hair and fingernails

    9. Classes of Toxins • Toxic Gases • Examples: carbon monoxide (CO) • Indicators: asphyxia, cherry red skin/lips

    10. Classes of Toxins • Organic Toxins • Examples: chloroform, hemlock, nicotine, cyanide • Indications: convulsions, paralysis, asphyxia, smell of almonds

    11. Classes of Toxins • Prescription Medicines • Examples: morphine, sleeping pills, pain medicines • Indications: asphyxia, paralysis • May look like an overdose or suicide