Thursday, November 29, 2018

Potassium Chloride: Poisoning People for Fun and Profit—Part 38.

Potassium Chloride (KCl) is commonly known as a dietary supplement. It’s one of those “electrolytes” you’re always hearing about. You can find it in your Gatorade.
KCl occurs naturally in the mineral Sylvite

It is most widely used in fertilizer (called potash). It’s also used in animal feed, glassmaking, medicines, and foods like the “Mrs. Dash” line of seasonings. It has the appearance and taste of table salt (sodium chloride NaCl.)

But it can also kill. In large doses, it causes cardiac arrest. Some states in the U.S. use it as the third drug in the "three drug cocktail" for execution by lethal injection.

It occurs naturally as the mineral sylvite and in combination with sodium chloride as sylvinite.

Potassium Chloride as a Dietary Supplement.

Potassium is necessary for the normal function of our hearts, muscles, kidneys, nerves, and digestive systems. Most people get enough potassium if they eat a healthy diet.

salt-free seasoning uses KCl

But a number of things can deplete potassium, which is water soluble. Diuretics, high blood pressure medications like Lasix, kidney disease, diabetes, gastrointestinal diseases, and a number of other medical issues can create the need for a potassium supplement.

Unfortunately, some people think that because it’s a supplement sold over the counter, it must be harmless. But as with many supplements, it can be dangerous—even lethal—at high doses. Pregnant women are advised not to take potassium.

Potassium Chloride Overdose

An excess of potassium in the blood is called hyperkalemia. A dose that’s not high enough to kill outright can cause kidney failure. Even a mild overdose of can cause distress. Here are some signs of an overdose:

  • Slow or irregular heartbeat 
  • Seizures 
  • Shallow breathing 
  • Mental confusion 
  • Lightheadedness or feeling you are about to faint 
  • Leg and arm weakness 
  • Tingling, prickling, or burning sensation in extremities 
  • Stomach pain 
  • Lethargy 
  • Cold, pale skin 

Death by Potassium Chloride (Hyperkalemia)

Hyperkalemia caused by disease or oral ingestion first triggers kidney failure in patients and after that, death can be very quick, even in otherwise healthy patients.

But when KCl is injected, it goes right to the heart and usually kills within 10 minutes.

It’s the ability to kill rapidly that has made KCl one of the ingredients used in some parts of the U.S. for execution by lethal injection. It causes cardiac arrest after the first two drugs have been injected to decrease pain and cause paralysis. Many people consider this method of execution to be inhumane, and other methods are being introduced.

But death from oral potassium overdose is rare. A number of treatments can stop the effects before they kill if the victim gets to the hospital quickly. Unfortunately, the patient’s system may be compromised and they may die several weeks later.

But there are cases of death from oral ingestion of KCl. In the US in the 1970s, A 32-year-old woman became hypokalemic from taking potassium supplements with her liquid protein diet (a big fad in the mid-20th century, starting with the Metrecal craze of the 1960s.)

This woman had been told that if she felt weak from the diet, all she needed was to take a potassium pill. Thinking they were harmless, and feeling weak from starvation, she kept popping the pills. She first developed diarrhea, and was told to stop taking the potassium. But it was too late. She was found dead the next day. An autopsy showed that she had taken 47 tablets of potassium chloride.

So, swallowing 47 tablets of KCl can kill, apparently. But if you’re writing a mystery where KCl is the murder weapon, injection would be the surest method for your killer.

What about you? Have you heard any stories of potassium chloride used as a murder weapon? 

Coming in December! Googling Old Boyfriends: Camilla Randall Mystery #7

“Okay, ’fess up.” Mickie McCormack’s eyes twinkled as she plunked a book on the counter. “If you’re that distracted by the Internet you’re either looking at porn or you’re Googling old boyfriends.”

I felt my cheeks heat up.

“Um, I’m guilty of the latter, I’m afraid. I’ve just run into an old boyfriend and he’s invited me to dinner, but…”

The bell on the door jingled.

There he was. Captain Maverick Jesus Zukowski, six foot, three inches of tall, dark, and the-one-who-got-away.

The Camilla Randall mysteries are a laugh-out-loud mashup of crime fiction, rom-com, and satire. Morro Bay bookshop owner Camilla Randall is a magnet for murder, mayhem, and Mr. Wrong. But she always solves the case in her quirky, but oh-so-polite way.

In this stand-alone episode, Camilla befriends socialite Mickie McCormack  a sexy, mysterious older woman who’s going through a painful divorce. Mickie has been Googling her old boyfriends to reconnect and “remember who she used to be.”

Unfortunately every one of those boyfriends soon ends up dead.

Is the serial killer Camilla’s old boyfriend Dr. Bob? Or one of Mickie’s old boyfriends? And can Camilla’s old boyfriend Captain Rick protect her and her cat Buckingham from being fed to the sharks before she solves the mystery?

Here's a list of all the poisons in this series


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