Salt death?
April 25, 2006 8:39 PM   Subscribe

Can you kill a human being by burying him/her in salt (NaCl)? (Or possibly with that silica gel stuff hobbyists use to dry flowers?)

Bonus question: how much salt, if ingested, is lethal to a human?

Don't worry, I don't actually want to kill anyone. The latter question about ingesting salt came up after my friends and I were reminiscing about the time they paid me $5 to eat a spoonful of salt. (Terrible experience, but it didn't kill me.) Another friend, hearing this story, said I was lucky that I didn't die from a chemical imbalance. Was that friend correct?

The former question about burying in salt and/or silica gel came up after further discussion, and my Google skills have failed to find an answer.
posted by limeonaire to Health & Fitness (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This sounds like it has some of the answers you want. 0.45g/lb of body weight. I don't think your spoonful was too dangerous.
posted by Krrrlson at 8:49 PM on April 25, 2006

you could kill a human being by burying him in anything, couldn't you? ... something about the lack of oxygen, i believe

salt poisoning in sheep and pigs

Human; TDLo: 12,357 mg/kg/23 D-C
posted by pyramid termite at 8:51 PM on April 25, 2006

I would think that one risk of being buried in salt would be suffocation.

As to ingestion, the rat LD-50 dose for sodium chloride is 3 grams per kilogram of body weight. ("LD-50" stands for "lethal dose 50%", the dose which kills 50% of rats.) For a 220 pound man (100 kg) that would be 300 grams, which is just shy of 12 ounces. The lowest published lethal dose (LDlo) for humans is one third of that.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 8:52 PM on April 25, 2006

Furthermore, I doubt being buried in solid salt would kill you -- it wouldn't be absorbed through the skin. You'd die of air shortage, hunger, thirst, or boredom first. Salt in solution is a different matter.
posted by Krrrlson at 8:56 PM on April 25, 2006

Somehow I can't see killing myself by eating half a pound of salt. Is there something I could mix it with to potentiate things a little?

I thought it was neat that eating a handful of common castor beans could prove fatal till I realized you die of extreme diarrhea. No thanks, I don't hate myself THAT much.
posted by davy at 9:01 PM on April 25, 2006

There's a wacky natural-remedy hogwash cure for edema that involves being packed in rock salt in a bathtub. I imagine that if this killed people, we'd have heard of it.

I think it's related somehow to the Master Cleanse(r), aka the Lemonade Fast. Google it for hilarity!
posted by pullayup at 9:05 PM on April 25, 2006

I believe there are a number of spa treatments that involve packing people in sea salt, with a breathing hole, of course.

So, no, although if it were a matter of days or weeks rather than minutes or hours, all bets might be off.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:12 PM on April 25, 2006

The topmost 35 m or so of the Dead Sea had a salinity that ranged between 300 and 400 parts per thousand, and I (and many other people, obviously) have swam in it before without dying.
posted by ori at 9:31 PM on April 25, 2006

Swimming in highly saline water is a strange experience. I've never been to the middle East, but one time when I was a kid I swam in the Great Salt Lake. What I remember most about it was how easy it was to float. It felt like half my body was above the water.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 9:43 PM on April 25, 2006

Here is an account of fatality by salt poisoning, when administered as a punishment by parents to children, It refers to three other cases, one of which is described here. In both cases the defense is claiming that the children had an [unknown] extra-sensitivity to salt; I'm not sure how credible this is.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 10:11 PM on April 25, 2006

What about death by osmosis? Wouldn't it be possible to be dried and/or picked alive?
posted by provolot at 11:14 PM on April 25, 2006

Response by poster: Krrrlson: see, I figure salt (or silica) wouldn't be absorbed through the skin—I figure it would work the opposite way, drawing out moisture. You'd die by dehydration. I can't find anything that confirms this, though.
posted by limeonaire at 12:34 AM on April 26, 2006

the time they paid me $5 to eat a spoonful of salt.

Define "spoonful"?
posted by AmbroseChapel at 5:54 AM on April 26, 2006

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