Thallium poisoning from maliciously contaminated food

William J. Meggs, Robert S. Hoffman, Richard D. Shih, Richard S. Weisman, Lewis R. Goldfrank

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

48 Scopus citations

Abstract

Four young adults presented two days after one of them had received marzipan balls packaged in a box from an expensive candy manufacturer. Two ate one candy ball, while two others shared a third. The next day, variable gastrointestinal symptoms developed. On the third day, two patients developed painful paresthesiae of the hands and feet, an early but nonspecific clinical marker of thallium poisoning. A tentative diagnosis of thallium poisoning was made based on symptoms, and treatment was initiated. The remaining candies were radiographed. Metallic densities in the candies supported the diagnosis, and atomic absorption spectroscopy was used to quantitate thallium content. Each candy contained a potentially fatal dose. Five to seven days later, hypertension and tachycardia developed in the two patients who had ingested an entire candy. All patients developed alopecia but recovered without overt neurologic or other sequelae. While the diagnosis of thallium poisoning is often delayed until alopecia develops, an early diagnosis favors an effective treatment strategy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)723-730
Number of pages8
JournalClinical Toxicology
Volume32
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 1994
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Alopecia
  • Food poisoning
  • Thallium poisoning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis

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