heavy water

Gail & Jack Sims Sims4 at llnl.gov
Thu Apr 20 02:41:15 EST 1995


In article <wolk-0904951444470001 at koh-mac49.usc.edu>, wolk at aludra.usc.edu
(wendy wolk) wrote:

> Can anyone tell me the chemical formula for heavy water and in what dosage
> is it harmful. Also what are the symptoms of someone who has ingested too
> much.
>     I need this info for a sci-fi screenplay that I am writing. (I am not
> planning an elaborate murder.) :)
>                                        -Wendy Wolk
>                                          USC Cinema/TV


Heavy water is composed of one or two tritium atoms and one oxygen atom. 
Call the tritium by a "T", then heavy water would be HTO or TTO.  Water is
HHO as in H2O. Tritium (T) is a radioactive form of hydrogen (H). There is
also deuterium, but from your point of view the "D" for deuterium can be
substituted for the "T" in tritium.
Your idea is interesting, I don't think that one could kill somebody by
poisoning them with heavy water.  Although I have not done the
calculation, I guess that the best that a playwright could do is to have
them continuously consume only heavy water for 70 years and hope that they
will die of cancer earlier than the actuary tables predict.
Not all radioactive materials make for good poisons.  Even with plutonium,
the deadly radioactive material feared by many, it is difficult to
demonstrate poisoning effects in humans. Many plutonium workers who have
been carrying plutonium in their bodies for thirty or more years and are
still alive and cancer-free.
Radioactive poisons, i.e., someone¹s dies within a week or two, would have
to be a very complex cocktail of radioactive elements obtained from the
bowls of a nuclear reactor to the death of the firemen and helicopter
crews fighting the Chernobyl disaster as radiation poisoning.
I am sure that there are radiologists and health physicists in the medical
disciplines at USC that can help.
I hope this helps and good luck.
Take care,
Jack



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