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Young Readers, Mystery Authors Learn from Poison Center in Tucson
Readers flock to Tucson Festival of Books
The Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center , a part of the University of Arizona College of Pharmacy , participated in one of the largest book festivals in the United States March 9 and 10. Every year, the University of Arizona hosts the Tucson Festival of Books which invites authors from all over the country and attracts thousands of visitors. At the festival, the poison center was part of Science City , a section devoted to hands-on demonstrations, educational activities and other exciting learning opportunities for youth.
This year our center had three tables with College of Pharmacy and prepharmacy student volunteers. Some of our certified specialists in poison information, who answer phones at the poison center, helped out as well. Besides learning about Arizona’s dangerous bark scorpion while viewing a live one illuminated with a black light, families discovered that Arizona is the venomous creature capital of the U.S. There was plenty of information about spiders, snakes and Gila monsters as well.
Because every year in the United States, more than 3,500 people of all ages swallow miniature disc or “button” lithium batteries, center staff developed a button battery educational exhibit. These batteries power hearing aids, watches, toys, games, flashing jewelry, singing greeting cards, remote control devices, and many other items. The poison center exhibit displayed a hot dog being burned by a lithium battery while a stopwatch ticked off the passage of time. Many parents were justifiably horrified by the battery’s damage to “tissue,” but reassured that they could call 1-800-222-1222 for information.
We also conducted a “Which is Toxic?” game (participants guessed which of the lookalike products, medicines and candies were poisonous) and a “Make Your Own Spider” station. Tarantula creation was very popular with kids of all ages, as was our “Toxic Images” face painting.
To see more photos of the center at the festival click here.
Dr. Mazda Shirazi
Mazda & the Murderers
Readers weren’t the only story lovers to learn from our poison center recently. Our medical director, Dr. Mazda Shirazi , spoke to a Tucson mystery writers group in February. Tucson Sisters In Crime invite guest speakers to inform them about topics they can use in their fictional works. The authors wanted to know about poisons their villains might use -- which poisons are the deadliest, hardest to detect, or the slowest to kill. They also sought information on classic poisons from plants and minerals. Dr. Shirazi spoke on cyanide, strychnine, belladonna and other “popular” crime novel toxins. He provided the correct medical nomenclature and symptoms for accurate writing, but he did not include how to actually kill someone! He was such a hit that he has been invited to speak to another writers group.
Trivia to impress your friends: The only difference between “something good” and “poison” is dosage. Even seemingly harmless or beneficial substances – think drinking water – can be toxic in certain doses.