Toxins are poisonous substances. They are produced within living cells or organisms. Toxins are small molecules, peptides, or proteins. The same are capable of causing disease on contact or by absorption by body tissues. Not all toxins have the same toxicity; it ranges from minor to deadly for both humans and animals.
In this article, we will explore the surface of toxinology. How do humans and animals react to toxins in their bodies, and why?
What are toxins?
“Toxins are poisonous products of organisms. Unlike biological agents, they are inanimate and not capable of reproducing themselves”. This is according to the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Toxins are generally divided into 4 types: chemical, biological, physical, and radiation.
This type of toxicant (e.g. a pesticide) includes inorganic substances. These substances, such as lead, mercury, or hydrofluoric acid, do not contain carbon.
Biological toxins are poisonous by-products of microorganisms, plants, and animals. They cause negative health effects in humans, animals, or plants. Common examples are Diphtheria Toxin, Botulinum Toxin, Snake Venom Toxins, Conotoxin, and Ricin.
We can divide snake venom types into:
- Neurotoxins – toxins that are destructive to nerve tissue
- Cytotoxins – any agent or process that kills cells. For example chemotherapy and radiotherapy
All these toxins can cause poisoning symptoms if a certain amount of them is in the organism.
Coal dust, asbestos fibers, or divided silicon dioxide are examples of physical toxicants. They can be harmful and even fatal to organisms if inhaled. Corrosive chemicals can destroy organ tissues and so are toxicants.
Radiation toxicity or radiation sickness is an acute illness. It’s also known as Acute Radiation Syndrome (ARS). It’s caused by a high dose of penetrating radiation in a short period of time. Penetrating radiation means it gets into the body, reaching internal organs. Such radiation is greater than 70 rads and can be fatal.
Toxic household items
Today, most homes have at least some kind of items that might cause toxicity in organisms. They may not be deadly but can cause harm to body tissue. As a result, they can cause a wide variety of symptoms. For example headaches, stomach pain, loss of appetite, blurred vision, or drowsiness.
Non-Stick Cookware releases toxic gas
Contains a substance called polytetrafluoroethylene that makes cookware non-sticky. Yet, it releases gases on high heat, which can be harmful and cause cancer or other harmful health issues.
Flea and Tick Products have toxic ingredients
If you have a pet, you are familiar and even have this kind of product in your home. While it gets the job done by getting rid of fleas and ticks, it can also cause nerve damage. Make sure to have a talk with your veterinarian about which flea and tick product is the best for your pet.
Mothballs are toxic
Mothballs and other similar products contain one bad chemical compound. It’s called naphthalene, which destroys red blood cells. It’s proven to cause cancer in animals, but not proven yet that it can also do so in humans.
Air Fresheners release toxicants
Toxins found in air fresheners can get into the body. Chances are higher if they are close to people. Those toxins may affect hormones and reproductive health in both adults and children.
Oven Cleaners leave toxins in the oven
Most of oven cleaner products contain corrosive alkalis. If inhaled, they can harm the gastrointestinal tract and respiratory system. Cooking in an intoxicated oven is unhealthy and food may get intoxicated as well.
Furniture Polish and Stain may cause cancer
These products contain chemical compounds phenol and nitrobenzene. Phenol and nitrobenzene can trigger skin cancer if absorbed by your skin.
Gas Space Heaters release fatal toxic gas
Gas-powered products release harmful toxins. Unfortunately, most people use space heaters indoors. They may cause Carbon Monoxide poisoning. Such poisoning may cause brain or heart damage, miscarriage, and even death. It’s especially bad for children. This is because they are more exposed because of more frequent breathing.
Cleaning Solutions have toxicants
Cleaning solution bottles often claim to be “green” while being able to wither plants. Cleaner manufacturers are not required to list all the components in their products. Thus consumers are not always aware of how harmful these solutions are. To make things worse, this is the item that most of the households have worldwide. It should not get spilled or ingested by neither humans nor animals.
Lead-based Paint releases toxins
Some homes may have interiors covered in lead-based paints. Such households are usually built in the 1970s. These coats are hazardous as soon as the paint starts to flake. Inhaling particles that lead-based paint has may cause lead poisoning.
How do toxins affect the organism?
So far we have covered what and where are the toxins, but how do they affect our organisms?
The answer is they will cause poisoning in your body, which can have a wide variety of symptoms. From simple confusion to passing out, it will not do any good. Yet, common poisoning symptoms include diarrhea, stomach pain, dizziness, and high temperature. Other symptoms are shivering, loss of appetite, headaches, breathing difficulty, and blurred vision. In severe cases, poisoning can cause a coma.
You can avoid most poisonings. Even if you inhale particles of harmful metals. Factory workers often breathe in metal or other chemicals. That is very harmful to their bodies. Not much today or tomorrow, but it will build up in the body over the years.
Another common example is people who work in shoe factories and have a job to pour shoe or slipper mold. It usually has a strong smell and plastic particles may be in the air, which is not good to breathe in. If you burn plastic yourself, you may see plastic particles flying in the air. They usually leave a strong smell behind as well.
To avoid poisoning by these harmful substances, the best you can do is avoiding any contact with them. If you work in factories that leave toxic particles, you may consider changing your job. The next step is talking with your doctor. This is because different poisonings need different treatments.
Chelation is an option for heavy metal poisoning. It works by injecting drugs with a needle into your bloodstream. Afterward, they will “bond” with some metals in your blood and then get flushed out by urinating.
In case you got poisoned by toxic substances, you should immediately go to a doctor. There, you will get taken care of by people who have years of experience behind with such cases.
How toxins affect animals?
A high amount of toxins in a dog’s body will cause dog poisoning, which can be deadly. This applies to many animals that cannot withstand high toxicity. Yet, there are animals such as killifish that can withstand a higher amount of toxicity in their body. They have most likely evolved this from being too long in contaminated waters.
As in humans, symptoms in animals can be or not be present. Your dog will most likely show symptoms in case it got poisoned. The dog will most likely drool a lot and have breathing difficulties. Other symptoms are loss of coordination and vomiting. Vomiting can do good for your dog because it will make him get rid of the poison, at least to some degree.
Unfortunately, dog poisoning can cause death and the same goes for other animals and pets. More common signs of poisoning are diarrhea, anxiety, heart issues, and unconsciousness. In case your pet got poison or toxic substance on the skin, it may cause itching, pain, or skin irritation.
While it’s uncommon that people poison animals, it does happen – especially with stray dogs. However, dogs can get poisoned by eating something toxic for their body. Chocolate, for instance, is not harmful to humans but is for dogs. There is a list of fruits that are poisonous to dogs, as well as a list of vegetables that are poisonous to dogs.
If you think your pet got poisoned, immediately call a veterinarian. You should do the same whether it’s the dog, cat, or a parrot. There, it will get professional help and the best chance of survival and treatment. The sooner it gets to a veterinarian for a medicine, the better.
Veterinarians may recommend activated charcoal. It works by bonding and absorbing toxicants in the stomach.
In case the poisonous substance is on your pet’s skin, make sure to wash it off. Keep rinsing until it’s completely gone. This will help with skin pain, itchiness, and irritation.
The best thing you can do is get to someone who is a professional and knows the best for you. For humans, those people are doctors and for animals they are veterinarians. Thus, make sure to get help and do not rely on yourself, as poisoning may be worse than you think.