Poison puts women in hospital

A WOMAN and teenage girl were taken to Bundaberg Hospital after a deadly poison was spilled at their home.

The 46-year-old woman and 16-year-old girl were believed to have been moving furniture at their property in Cedars Road, South Kolan, on Sunday, when they accidentally knocked over a container of strychnine about 6.50pm.

Powder from the container is believed to have spilled onto the women’s clothing.

Emergency services, including firefighters in breathing masks, were called to clean up the toxic mess, and the women were taken to hospital.

“Shortly before 7pm, we received a telephone call advising that two people had come into contact with strychnine,” Queensland Ambulance Service regional operations supervisor Rick Tenthy said.

The patients followed instructions from the Triple-0 operator to take off their clothes and shower to remove the contamination, but fell ill despite their efforts.

“They felt a little unwell, but they were stable so they were assessed by a paramedic and taken by ambulance to the Bundaberg Hospital for observation,” Mr Tenthy said.

After several hours under medical supervision, the patients were released about 11pm in good health.

Queensland Fire and Rescue Service Bundaberg station officer Glenn Gifford said firefighters took advice from scientists in Brisbane before attempting the clean-up.

“Firefighters got into chemical suits and masks, then used wet rags to wipe it up,” Mr Gifford said.

“The wet rags were then put into airtight drums and taken to the police station to be destroyed.”

He said only a small amount of the toxin was spilled — describing the amount as similar to “two shakes of a talcum powder bottle”.

But the poison is so toxic that an amount the size of a match head could kill a wild dog, and less than 10mg can kill a person.

Within 15 minutes of consuming the poison, symptoms – including twitching, stiff muscles, uncontrollable arching of the back and neck, and convulsions – can be evident.

Death can occur from suffocation after a series of convulsions.

There have been several reported deaths from strychnine poisoning across Australia in the past three years, including a prisoner at Kingaroy in 2007, and two men in Victoria who died in March 2008.

It is illegal to buy, possess or use strychnine without an appropriate licence, and people using it without a permit can be prosecuted.

Fines can also be issued to permit holders who do not store strychnine locked in a secure place.

A Queensland Police Service spokesman said it was not known whether the women had a licence for the poison.

“Police are still investigating,” he said.

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