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Newsgroups: rec.drugs.chemistry,,sci.chem
Subject: Re: did safrole cause cancer ?
From: (Steve Dyer)
Date: Tue, 06 Jul 1999 04:31:50 GMT

In article <>,
Eric Lucas  <> wrote:
>> Safrole is harmless to people at any rational dosage, acute and
>> chronic.  So was chloroform used as anesthesia
>People frequently died by aspirating their own vomit under chloroform,
>if applied carelessly.  Harmless at acute dosage?  I think not.

Chloroform was obsolete and had been abandoned as an anesthetic
(except perhaps in veterinary vivisection) decades before the
FDA removed it from the market   The risk of aspiration of vomitus is
a characteristic of most anesthetics; that was not in itself a reason
to withdraw it from the market.  However, it wasn't "harmless to people"
when used as an anesthetic -- it could produce cardiac arrhythmias and
cardiac arrest during anesthesia, and like carbon tetrachloride
(a related "harmless" substance formerly used as a cleaning solvent),
it was hepatotoxic, causing varying degrees of liver damage, from
elevated liver enzymes to hepatitis to outright liver failure
which only became evident days after the anesthesia was administered.

The biggest impact on medicine from its removal from the market
came from the need to reformulate hundreds of Rx and OTC nostrums
that used minute amounts of chloroform as a flavoring agent.
A small amount was often added to cough syrups (e.g., Vicks'
Formula 44), lozenges (Parke Davis Throat Lozenges), toothpastes
(Ultra Brite), since the substance added a pungent "medicinal"
menthol-like cool burn that added to the placebo effect, if
nothing else.  Whether this particular use of the drug was a
real public health risk is arguable, I suppose, and ties into
a discussion of the dangers of trihalomethanes in the environment.

Steve Dyer

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