A Mercurial Toxin
Week of June 24
Since ancient times, mercury has been used to treat skin diseases and other illnesses. But its toxicity wasn’t fully appreciated until March 1809, when a large cargo of mercury poisoned the crews of two British ships.
Mercury is a liquid metal obtained from cinnabar. People used mercury compounds such as mercuric chloride to disinfect wounds and mercuric sulfide to make bright red vermillion paint...
Too Much of a Good Thing
Week of June 17
Imagine the shock a set of parents in Spain felt when their infant son was diagnosed with scurvy.
You’re probably thinking, wait, isn’t that what plagued sailors of old? That can’t happen in modern Spain to an urban family. Scurvy occurs from a lack of vitamin C, so what was the baby eating?
For the first two months of life he was fed a cow’s milk formula...