Sunday, January 2, 2011

DEATH BY POTASSIUM PERMANGANATE [KMnO4]

KMnO4 Solution
ANANT BABU MARAHATTA
Ph.D. student
Tohoku University, Japan

Potassium permanganate is not a new chemical for the chemists as well as for other scientists. It is generally used in even very simple lab. It is a crystalline, colored substance and soluble in water. Its salts are normally stable in crystalline form but Zinc permanganate can become explosive. In fact, storing it in tightly stopper bottles is highly dangerous. The color of the solution of KMnO4 is differed depending upon its concentration. If the concentration is about one part per million (1 PPm), the solution has a faint pink color. When the concentration is one part in 76000 (65mg/4.5dm3), the fluid becomes purple. Because of its color, solution has been used for staining purpose too. Those who use the chemical as a stain for flooring and woodwork and work with the concentrated solution must exercise with great care.


Infection due to KMnO4
We never believed potassium permanganate could be a poison too. In fact it is used to treat certain poisoning; such as poisoning by Opium (a drug), KMnO4 solution indeed is recommended. Doctors actually wash the stomach of patient [Opium user] with this solution because KMnO4 oxidizes the Opium. Similarly in many other poisonings, doctors wash the stomach with KMnO4 solution. But unfortunately permanganate acts as a poison too. In fact about 10-20gm of KMnO4 is enough to kill the person.

KMnO4 is a very common substance and it can be acquired without any restriction by the public. Yet poisoning by it is uncommon but doctors are probably facing a death due to this substance; in fact fatal poisoning by KMnO4 is rare. But children in particular must be protected against the ingestion of the colored crystals which they may mistake for sweets. The child aged about 22 months was died after eating some permanganate crystals which his father used for gardening. Tablets of KMnO4 are still on sale in the USA.

KMnO4 is an irritant substance. It irritates the uterus too and may cause it to expel its contents. This has made the use of KMnO4 very popular in illegal abortions. Some women simply ingest it while some make its solution and introduce it in their uterus through the vaginal route. Some women simply introduce the crystals of KMnO4 in their vagina.The insertion of tablets of KMnO4 into the vagina to procure abortion first came to notice in Spain and Italy during 1930s.Although the abortion has become legal in most of the counties, this practice has not yet been abandoned. The reason is that most unmarried girls for fear of society’s censure still do not want to disclose that they have become pregnant. They prefer to go for abortions by these dangerous methods. This has caused several deaths too.

Women make a solution of KMnO4 and then with the help of appropriate instrument, push this solution into their uterus. This process is called “DOUCHING”, which is also very common. The douching may be done to procure an abortion or only for hygienic reasons as KMnO4 is supposed to be an antiseptic. If, however, solution is too concentrated it can have dangerous and probably fatal consequences. As the doctor used KMnO4 for stomach wash in certain poisonings, but the question arises that doesn’t it kill the patient? The answer is that when KMnO4 is used for stomach wash, it is used in a solution of strength 1:5000.It only acts as an irritant at higher concentration of about 1:1000.

KMnO4 can be easily dissolved in red wine and the colors of both are almost similar. Moreover the taste of red wine would mask the taste of KMnO4. So the person would get accidentally poisoned by having some drinks contaminated with KMnO4. KMnO4 has not been really used for homicide. It has more often been used for suicidal purposes, but accidental poisoning also occurs, notably in children under the age of four years, who usually mistake the red colored crystals for sweets. Even adults have been known to take the poison mistakenly.

Another popular although wrong belief is that it is a remedy for amenorrhoea,
[A girl generally starts menstruating at about the age of 13 years, but if the menstruation cycle does not start, the condition is known as amenorrhoea]. Ideally when faced with such a symptom, a woman should contact a doctor but many women prefer to treat themselves by folk remedies, and KMnO4 is one of the folk remedies for amenorrhoea. This is done by taking pills containing 65-130mg of KMnO4 before the expected period of menstruation.

What are the symptoms appeared after ingesting KMnO4?

The person suddenly develops a burning pain in his abdomen with nausea and vomiting. The vomited material contains some brown pigments. He complains of intense thirst too. Staining of tissues is very obvious. Some patient may have brown stains on the face in linear form running down from an angle of the mouth. The eyes and the face will be stained if crystals fall onto the face. The interior part of the mouth of the patient usually decolorized [after poisoning, the color is purple-brown but within few minutes this changes brown or dark- brown and later following the formation of MnO2 which gives coal black color]. The presence of coal black at the inner part of food pipe is the clear symptom for the patient. The corrosion of stomach and food pipe will take place due to the formation of potassium hydroxide formed by the action of KMnO4 on tissues. The lips, gums, teeth, tongue, tonsils, pharynx and the upper end of the larynx are all likely to be discolored, inflamed and superficially corroded. These may severe at points where any crystals may lodge inside the mouth, throat, and lips inside the cheeks or within the piriform fossae [pear shaped pockets on either side of the pharynx]. If the crystals of the KMnO4 get lodged in piriform fossae, they can corrode these areas. Then the patients experience difficulty in speaking as well as in swallowing. The stools seem black due to the manganous sulphide compound. Irritation of the trachea and bronchi leads to difficulty in respiration. A lethal dose, about 20g kills the person with in 20 to 90 hours. But when KMnO4 is introduced into the uterus, death may occur with in 12 hours.

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