Tuesday, November 5, 2013

What's that 'Bright Orange' Chemical?

As reported by NPR this morning, the U.S. Supreme court hears the case of Carol Anne Bond, convicted of violating the Chemical Weapons Convention through her repeated attempts to poison her husband's mistress with two industrial chemicals. From NPR:
"Bond stole toxic chemicals from the chemical manufacturing company where she worked and ordered other chemicals over the Internet. She combined the chemicals into a compound that is potentially lethal in small amounts — and is also bright orange. Bond spread the toxic material on her rival's mail, mailbox, front doorknob, car door and other surfaces.
But because of the orange color, the mistress, Myrlinda Haynes, easily spotted the chemicals and avoided any injury except a thumb burn."
 I tried to look for information on the identity of this "bright orange" substance. Digging into the SCOTUS brief, it seems Ms. Bond purchased two chemicals:
". . .petitioner [Bond] decided to punish Haynes. She purchased some potassium
dichromate (a chemical commonly used in printing photographs) from Amazon.com, and stole a bottle of 10, 10-chloro-10-H-phenoxarsine (an arsenic-based chemical) from her employer. Petitioner knew the chemicals were irritants and believed that, if Haynes touched them, she would develop an uncomfortable rash."
According to this oral argument from 2011, Ms. Bond had been a microbiology technician with Rohm & Haas, from whom she nabbed the arsine compound. What I haven't been able to figure out from the stories or briefings is whether she intended the combination of two potentially poisonous, irritant substances to function apart, or to perform some sort of solid-phase oxidation to, for example, phenoxarsine oxide (a known antimicrobial compound).

This case needs more chemical context...paging Deborah Blum!

6 comments:

  1. I have a little disconnect in that other reporting insinuates that the chemical was white - it was initially assumed to be cocaine. I'm pretty sure bright orange cocaine would stand out somewhat.

    http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/view_from_chicago/2013/10/bond_v_united_states_the_ridiculous_libertarian_argument_in_the_supreme.html

    But, yes, unclear to me what the combination of chemicals was meant to achieve

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