intoxication, condition of body tissue affected by a poisonous substance. Poisonous materials, or toxins, are to be found in heavy metals such as lead and mercury, in drugs, in chemicals such as alcohol and carbon tetrachloride, in gases such as carbon monoxide, and in radioactive materials. Toxins are also elaborated by the microorganisms that cause such diseases as diphtheria, tetanus, and botulism. The body itself may produce poisonous substances in the course of such disorders as diabetes (ketones) and in some infectious diseases. Which body tissues are affected depends on the type of toxin. Phosphorus, for example, affects the liver, poisonous mushrooms the nervous system and red blood cells. See alcoholism; leprosy; lead poisoning; radiation sickness.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.