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Paracelsus' poison

All I want is an Iridium Christmas (or: The Toxicological implications of the forthcoming Mayan Apocalypse)

If you have been reenacting a crossing of the Simpson desert for the past two years, or are a recently returned hermit, they you are probably unaware of the forthcoming Mayan Calendar Apocalypse.

To briefly recap, the Mayan Long Count calendar ends on December 21, and various people are holding forth on the fount of all wisdom, the Internet, that this will result in Something Bad™. Whether this Something Bad (tm) will be catastrophic tectonic activity, asteroid impacts or rains of frogs is left unclear (as is why a changing of the calendar will result in more catastrophes than normally associated with New Year festivities).

A recent paper in the Canadian Medical Association Journal has investigated the effects of the Mayan Doomsday (hereafter called MaD) on the conduct of clinical trials.

They conclude that all clinical trials should stop immediately as MaD is a (ahem) significant confounder.

However, this landmark paper has alerted me to the fact that there has been little investigation of the toxicological effects of MaD. This requires us to define the survivor population of MaD, and the likely mechanism of MaD.

Fortunately Wheatley-Price, Hutton and Clemons have already defined the likely survivor population. This includes zombies, other undead, the Grateful Dead, Dungeons and Dragons players and men who have read “Fifty shades of Grey”.

As a member of the expected survival cohort (Dungeons and Dragons DM, ask me about my “Gilligan’s Island meets Call of Cthulhu” adventure), I have a vested interest in understanding the toxicology of MaD.

Now we have to identify key toxicological hazards in the post MaD environment.

If MaD is due to tectonic activity, as well as devastating earthquakes we can expect a large increase in volcanic activity and widespread lava flows. This will result in large amounts of carcinogenic polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAH’s) such as benzo-a-pyrene from the widespread combustion of organic matter. As well, large amounts of fluorine will be released into the environment.

If MaD is due to an asteroid impact, we will get PAH’s from wildfires as with tectonic activity, and the release of large amounts of the heavy metal iridium into the atmosphere with dusty particulates. If the impact is big enough then we will get earthquakes and volcanic activity as well, adding fluorine to the atmospheric contamination.

If MaD is due to a rain of frogs, then aside from the obvious ickyness of having a landscape covered in swarming squamous amphibians, there is no toxicological issue unless the frogs are poisonous.

Zombies, by not breathing or having a functional circulatory system, should be immune to the effects of the carcinogenic PAH’s, fluorine, iridium and frog poison. If anything a slight coating of PAH with added iridium should make them slightly less subject to decay.

The effects on the zombies who consume the brains of living survivors who are contaminated with PAH’s, fluorine and iridium are conjectural, but this may coat and denature their decaying intestines, rending them unable to obtain whatever it is zombies get from eating brains.

Similar considerations apply to other undead, although vampires are generally more fastidious, and may shun contaminated survivors.

The Grateful Dead (and similar septuagenarian rock bands), having survived all the carcinogens and drugs consumed during the 60’s and 70’s and beyond, will be unfazed by PAH’s, fluorine and iridium (hey, it’s heavy metal after all). They are also likely to lick the frogs in the hope of obtaining a high (the frogs are more at risk here).

The Dungeons and Dragons players are mostly techno geeks, so we will have constructed chemical warfare protection from old plastic Macintoshes, half a coke bottle, and baking soda. And zombies? Pfft! We Geeks have been preparing for the Zombie Apocalypse [*] for ages. Who created the mathematical model of surviving the zombie apocalypse? Who was behind the American Center for Disease Controls’s Zombie Apocalypse preparedness sessions?

So who bears the brunt of the volcanic and asteroidal ash giving them silicosis? Who gets lung problems from the PAH’s? Who get fluorosis swelling their joints and crippling them? Who gets febrile hallucinations from the poison frogs? Who then can’t run away from the Zombies due to their crippling health problems?

Why, the Men who read “Fifty Shades of Grey”. While the Geeks inherit the Earth.

I can’t see any downside to this, can you?

[*] We will pass lightly over the inevitable battle between the Vampires and the Zombies for the last FSOG readers, although the D&D players have large quantities of popcorn stockpiled. Why won’t the vampires go after the D&D players? I told you that vampires have good taste.

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