by Molly MacRae
Arsenic is fascinating stuff. I fell down a rabbit hole of research chock-full of arsenic while writing my latest Highland Bookshop Mystery–Argyles and Arsenic. The book and I were lucky to make it back out alive. For your own poisonous pleasure, I’ve devised a quiz on all things arsenic.
1. When heated, what does arsenic gas smell like?
2. In what year were pesticides and insecticides containing arsenic banned in the U.S.?
3. During the 1800s, arsenic was used to color which commodity green?
C. Cake icing
D. Artificial flowers
E. Ball gowns
F. Furniture fabric
J. Children’s clothing
K. Children’s toys
P. All of the above and more!
4. Arsenic is:
A. An alloy
B. A mineral
C. A rock
D. An element
5. Production of wood pressure-treated with copper-chromium-arsenate stopped in what year?
6. What does arsenic taste like when stirred into your coffee or porridge?
B. Vaguely salty
C. Vaguely sweet
7. True or False: Arsenic can never be destroyed.
8. What malady was treated with arsenic in the 1800s?
D. Tongue ulcers
J. Menstrual problems
K. Gastric ulcers
M. All of the above and more!
9. True or False: Accidental pudding poisonings were frequently reported in the 1800s.
10. Why is arsenic appropriate for St. Patrick’s Day?
A. Shamrocks contain arsenic
B. Leprechauns are immune to arsenic
C. Arsenic makes a lovely green color
D. Corned Beef and Cabbage is the only known antidote for arsenic poisoning
1. B. When heated, arsenic gas smells like garlic. Mmmm, garlic.
2. C. Pesticides and insecticides containing arsenic were banned in the U.S. in 1980.
3. P (for poison). All of the above and more (some by accident)! Not only were the consumers of these products at risk but think of the factory workers exposed to arsenic daily.
4. D. Arsenic is element #33. It occurs in many minerals, usually in combination with sulfur and metals, but also as a pure elemental crystal.
5. C. Production of that green-tinged, pressure-treated wood, found in decks and other outdoor DIY projects, didn’t stop until 2003. Some of that wood is still around. Incorrect disposal of it – by burning for instance – leaves the arsenic behind. There’s enough arsenic in five tablespoons of pressure-treated wood to kill a 1,100-pound cow (which the cow might lick because of the salts also in the ash). One tablespoon can kill a 150-pound human. Moral of that story: Yes, I like cooking. No, I didn’t just give you a recipe.
6. A. Arsenic tastes like nothing. Mix it into the sugar bowl and your victim will never notice. And no, this isn’t a recipe, either.
7. True. Arsenic is an element and elements can’t be destroyed. Arsenic can only change its form or become attached to or separated from other particles.
8. M (for malicious medicine). All of the above and more! Not all medical uses of arsenic are quackery, though. Arsenic trioxide is an anti-neoplastic drug that slows or stops the growth of some types of cancer cells.
9. True. It pays to eye pudding with suspicion.
10. C. Arsenic makes a lovely green color, hence the lovely green cover for Argyles and Arsenic.
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