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‘The Poison of Kings’ Has a Fascinating History
Sunday, November 14, 2021


Delve into the history of arsenic, often called “the poison of kings,” when the Hailey Public Library hosts the second in a series called “Pick Your Poison.”

Forensic chemist Cat Helms will take a fun, entertaining look at the history and many uses of arsenic in a virtual talk at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 18.

RSVP to to tune in.

Arsenic is a naturally occurring element that has been used in agricultural insecticides, wood preservatives, bullets, artist paint and even chicken feed,” said Kristin Fletcher, the library’s programs and engagement manager.

Breathing in high levels can cause a sore throat and irritated lungs, while swallowing high levels  can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle weakness, cramping and skin rashes.

“It’s classified as ‘toxic’ by most countries but, interestingly, the symptoms of arsenic poisoning are not very specific,” said Fletcher. “Kings of yore used that fact to their advantage to knock off the competition.”

Helms has degrees in psychology from Vanderbilt University and in Forensic Chemistry from Virginia Common University where she served as the Forensic Toxicology Laboratory manager. She received a Master of Science degree in Molecular Medicine from the University of Virginia-Charlottesville.

She currently owns Cat Academy Tutoring, providing local academic support to middle and high school students in math and science.


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