Coffee Poisoning: Lover Laces Brew With Antifreeze, Texas Doctor Suffers Kidney Failure
A coffee poisoning incident in Texas put one man in the hospital with kidney failure. What the victim, a cancer specialist, thought was Splenda in his coffee turned out to be a much more noxious sweetener -- a chemical used in antifreeze called ethylene glycol.
Ana Maria Gonzalez-Angulo, a Houston-based oncologist, is accused of poisoning the coffee of a fellow doctor with whom she was carrying on a casual sexual partnership.
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The Houston Chronicle reports that Dr. George Blumenchschein, a lung, neck and head cancers specialist at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, has lost the use of his kidneys and remains under a doctor's surveillance after his coffee was poisoned with a chemical called ethylene glycol. The colorless synthetic liquid, used mainly as an antifreeze agent, has a sweet taste. According to investigators, the chemical was available at the M.D. Anderson center.
In a criminal complaint filed with the Harris County District Attorney's Office, Blumenchschein claimed that Gonzalez-Angulo was the coffee poisoning offender. In the document, filed May 29, Blumenchschein alleged that he was poisoned on Jan. 27 when he was at Gonzalez-Angulo's home. According to the report, Gonzalez-Angulo gave Blumenchschein a cup of coffee, which he said tasted sweet. She responded that she had added Splenda to it. When he finished the first cup, Gonzalez-Angulo made another, again sweetened with what she said was Splenda.
A few hours later, Blumenchschein's speech began to slur and his balance became wobbly. He was taken to the hospital with central nervous system depression and cardiopulmonary complications. A urine test identified ethylene glycol in the cancer specialist's system.
Last Week, Gonzalez-Angulo was charged with aggravated assault and was booked May 30. She was released on $50,000 bail.
"She is a distinguished citizen and scientist, and these allegations are totally inconsistent with her personal and professional life," Derek Hollingsworth, one of the lawyers representing Gonzalez-Angulo in the coffee poisoning case, said in a statement. "[The UT Police Department] jumped the gun in this."
Ethylene glycol is an odorless, colorless, synthetic liquid. Used mainly as an antifreeze agent in heating and cooling systems, ethylene glycol is a multipurpose chemical and can also found in hydraulic brake fluids, detergents, paints and even cosmetics. The chemical is also poisonous if swallowed.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, when someone is exposed to large quantities of ethylene glycol, usually by ingesting it, the chemical weakens the body in three stages. First, ethylene glycol poisoning causes central nervous system depression, which decreases the breathing rate, heart rate and can lead to loss of consciousness. A person with acute exposure to ethylene glycol can show symptoms of vomiting, drowsiness, convulsions and gastrointestinal upset.
Next, the body experiences cardiopulmonary effects, and then later renal damage, which leads to kidney failure.
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