COPPER SULFATE – The Green Chemical

copper-sulfate-flameCopper sulfate is a fascinating substance that burns with a green to aquamarine colored flame. Often it’s used in high school chemistry classes to demonstrate just such a phenomenon. It’s also considered a “green chemical” in that the US agricultural industry has used copper sulfate in pesticides since 1956. It is approved for use even in organic farming.

The copper in copper sulfate binds to proteins in bacteria, fungi and algae. It damages their cells, causing the organism’s cells to leak and die. Copper sulfate especially inhibits the growth of Esherichia coli. E. coli is an aggressive bacterium that is often the source of96599-382x255-Japanese_Farmer contamination in commercially grown produce.

Agricultural products containing copper sulfate are available in liquids, dusts and crystals. Copper sulfate can be toxic—and even lethal—if large amounts are absorbed through the skin. Accidental poisoning with this chemical has been reported occasionally among farm workers.

Workers can be exposed to the chemical as it comes into contact with skin. The dust can be breathed in, or the accidental contamination of food or drink can occur. That’s an interesting idea for the genesis of a murder mystery or thriller plot!

images-2The chemical appears as a pale green powder, but when mixed in water it turns the liquid a bright blue—a telltale sign of the presence of copper sulfate.

Although copper is an essential element and required by the body for proper health, the human body has internal mechanisms to maintain proper copper equilibrium. Excess copper is not stored in the body but excreted in solid wastes. The body cannot handle sudden large doses of the chemical, however. It overwhelms the body’s defense mechanisms, resulting in tissue damage or even death.

As with most toxic chemicals, the degree of harm is proportionate to the dose. Smaller doses of copper sulfate cause nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite, shock and diarrhea. Larger doses can lead to tissue damage, destruction of blood cells and moderate to severe damage to the liver and kidneys. Lethal doses result in multi-organ failure resulting from the chemical binding to proteins in different organs.

An ingested dose of 15-20mg of copper sulfate causes mainly gastrointestinalimages-3 symptoms, but higher doses can be lethal. Acute liver failure is the primary result of severe poisoning.

Accidental poisonings occasionally happen in the agricultural industry, but fortunately they have been on the decline with better education regarding safe handling of the chemical. Copper sulfate ingestion is also rare, and mainly is limited to the Indian subcontinent. This chemical is easily found in Sri Lanka and sold over the counter in that area of the world. Burning of copper sulfate in houses and shops as good luck charms or for religious activities has been a common practice among local Buddhists and Hindus.

The colorful flames from burning the hydrated crystals are attractive to children and a source of inadvertent ingestion and poisoning. The chemical is also commonly used there in pesticides, in the leather-making industry and for making homemade glue.

For an interesting poison in your next murder mystery, copper sulfate might be the perfect chemical weapon. It’s easy to use, readily available on the Internet and particularly lethal in sufficient quantities.

Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!


Leathal Medicine CoverCOMING SOON!

I have a new murder mystery novel publishing later this month. The release date is almost here, but I’m too excited to keep this under wraps any longer. I’ll let you know when, where, and how to get your copy FREE in my next couple of blogs.

About James J. Murray, Fiction Writer

With experience in both pharmaceutical manufacturing and clinical patient management, medications and their impact on one’s quality of life have been my expertise. My secret passion of murder and mayhem, however, is a whole other matter. I’ve always loved reading murder mysteries and thrillers, and longed to weave such tales of my own. Drawing on my clinical expertise as a pharmacist and my infatuation with the lethal effects of drugs, my tales of murder, mayhem and medicine will have you looking over your shoulder and suspicious of anything in your medicine cabinet.
This entry was posted in A How To Blog on Murder Plot Ideas, A How To Blog on Murder Weapons, About James J. Murray, About Medications/Pharmacy, About Murder, Acute Poisons, All About Murder, Blog About Poisons in Fiction Writing, Blog Writers, Blogging, Bloodless Death Scenes, Chemical Poisons, Copper Culfate, Copper Sulfate Poisoning and Farm Workers, Copper Sulfate Poisoning and India, Ideas for Murder Scenes, Instruments of Death, Interesting Murder Weapons, James J. Murray Blog, Killing a Villain in a Novel, Lethal Chemicals in Murder Mysteries, Methods of Murder, Murder Weapons Discussed, New Blog, New Methods of Murder, New Methods To Kill Characters in Your Novel, Pesticides and Murder, Poisons and Murder, Poisons Used For Murder, Prescription For Murder Blog, The Green Chemical, The Writings of James J. Murray, Unique Murder Plots, Unique Murder Weapons, Ways to Murder, Writing Death Scenes and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to COPPER SULFATE – The Green Chemical

  1. Hey James. The challenge is for the villian to administer a lethal dose in a believable manner. A challenge to creativity, as it should. 😉

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