Skip to main content

Full text of "Medical Jurisprudence And Toxicology"

See other formats

COPPER                                                    533-

the ashes and pieces of bones were forwarded to the Chemical Examiner for,
analysis. Mercury was detected in the spongy parts of the "bones.77

Mercury is often used as a medicine; hence the detection of a small
quantity in the viscera does not centra-indicate death from some other cause.

Mercury is not a constituent of the human body; hence its detection in
the tissues proves that it must have been introduced into the system from


The salts of copper which are important from a toxicological point of
viefw are—

1.    Copper Sulphate  (Cupric Sulphate,  Blue Vitriol or Blue Stone),
CuSO4, 5H2O.—The vernacular name of this salt is Nila tutia.   It occurs in
large, blue, slightly efflorescent crystals, freely soluble in water and having
a styptic taste.   It is converted into a bluish-white salt, CuSO4, H2O, when
heated to 100°C.   It becomes anhydrous at 220° to 240°C.   Thus anhydrous
salt is white and extremely hygroscopic.   Copper sulphate is given as an
astringent in i to 2-grain doses and as an emetic in 5 to 10-grain doses.   In
large doses it acts as an irritant poison.   It is also probable that small doses
of the coarsely powdered salt, repeated frequently, would produce gastric
and intestinal irritation and cause death, especially if prescribed when the
mucous membrane of the intestinal canal is in a congested state.

2.    Copper Carbonate.—The normal carbonate has not been obtained,
but a basic  carbonate, Cu2(OH)2CO3, occurs native as malachite, and is
obtained when carbonate of sodium is added to a solution of copper sulphate.
Natural verdigris, the green deposit, which appears on copper when exposed
to atmospheric moisture and carbon dioxide, is the same compound.

3.    Copper  Subacetate   (Verdigris,  Aerugo),  2Cus(OH)2   (C2H3O2)4.—

This is known in the vernacular as zangal. It occurs in powder, or in bluish-
green masses of very minute crystals. It is frequently employed in the arts.
It is used externally in medicine.

Acute Poisoning.—Symtoms.—These commence from a quarter to half-
an-hour after swallowing the poison with a metallic taste in the mouth,
burning pain in the stomach, thirst, nausea, eructations and repeated
vomiting. The vomited matter is blue or ^eeiu±CL--Colour, and can be
distinguished from bile by its turning deep blue on the addition of ammo-
nium hydroxide. The colour does not change in the case of bile. There is
diarrhoea with much straining, the motions being liquid and brown, but not
bloody. The urine is suppressed or diminished in quantity, and may
contain blood. The skin becomes jaundiced, and cramps of the legs or
spasms and convulsions occur. There is frontal headache, and the symptoms
of collapse set in, if the dose is large.

In some cases there is complete paralysis of the limbs, followed by
insensibility and coma ending in death.

Fatal Dose.—Uncertain. Half an ounce of copper sulphate proved fatal
to a woman, aged 20 years.78 One ounce of copper sulphate has also killed
an adult, but recovery Jbas followed a large dose of nearly four ounces. Half
an ounce of verdigris has caused the death of an adult. It should be remem-
bered that copper sulphate taken in small doses for some time is supposed
to be more dangerous than when a large quantity is swallowed at a time.

Fatal Period.—The usual fatal period is one to three days, but may "be
prolonged for several days. On the contrary, a woman suicide died from

77.   Punjab Chemical Examiner's Annual Report, 1925, p. 3.

78.   Madras Chemical Examiner's Annual Eeport, 1931, p. 2.