Long before the Blue Man Group, there was the Blue Man. Captain Fred Walters of the British Army contracted argyria after taking silver nitrate to treat locomotor ataxia. He took more deliberately to deepen the blue tone, and became a sideshow performer with Barnum and Bailey. In 1924, suffering from shortness of breath, he checked into Bellevue in New York City, where he died. His autopsy revealed that the cause of death was pneumonia, and that his muscles, internal organs, and brain were all tinted blue. By extracting the silver from different parts of his body, city toxicologist Alexander Gettler extrapolated that Walters had 3.5 oz. of silver in his body. His co-workers had a bullet cast from the extracted silver, presenting it to Gettler "just in case he ever had to analyze a vampire." [more inside]
Western tourists (mostly female) visiting Southeast Asia (Thailand, Vietnam, and Bali) are ending up dead, likely poisoned. Local officials have blamed the use of the insecticide DEET as an exotic ingredient in so-called "Bucket Drinks", or the use of Chlorpyrifos in hotel rooms. But Deborah Blum, an author and poison expert, doesn't buy into the insecticide theories offered by local officials. She thinks this looks like targeted murders. Since writing about the poisonings, she says she's been contacted by people who claim poisoning foreigners is common in 5-star hotels, and the police and owners cover it up.. A Facebook group was formed not only so that world travelers could share safe travel tips, but also so that notice of the unexplained, and often uninvestigated, deaths could be made public.
But beyond the disgust element was another more important question concerning borax: was it actually safe to eat? This troubling issue was the reason why squad members were imbibing the compound at Christmas, the reason for the Poison Squad experiments themselves. Established by a famously outspoken, crusading chemist from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Harvey Washington Wiley, the squads were also meant to answer another, larger question: were manufacturers actually poisoning the food supply?