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Difference Between Toxic and Poisonous

poison_toxicToxic vs Poisonous

Imagine that you have been bitten by a snake. Or imagine that your child got under the sink and accidentally ingested some bleach. Then imagine that you were hiking in the woods and are now covered with a splotchy, itchy pink rash. If any of these scenarios actually occurred, you would be more concerned with seeking medical treatment rather than trying to discern if you had encountered a poisonous or a toxic substance. Frankly speaking, there are few differences between toxic and poisonous, but they can be found if you look in the history and biology of toxicity and poison.

Definition of Toxic and Poisonous
Toxic ‘“ refers to the condition of a substance and the degree to which it can cause damage to you or any other organism or system. In colloquial usage, toxic can refer to biological organisms and non-biological substances, the latter in a more allegorical context.
Poisonous ‘“ describes substances that will disturb organisms, usually in a harmful way. Poison implies a high level of toxicity, though any substance is technically poisonous if taken in a large enough dose. Poison always refers to biological organisms.

Toxic and Poisonous in History
Toxic ‘“ as worker and consumer protection legislature came into effect during the 20th century, many substances were labeled toxic and non-toxic. Standards currently vary between the United States and the European Union, but starting in 2008, efforts have been made to globally harmonize all toxicity ratings.
Poisonous ‘“ using a poisonous substance to kill an enemy has long been a favorite theme of literature and politics since ancient times. One of the most famous poison episodes in history was Socrates and his hemlock. Herbs like belladonna have long been unofficially known for their poisonous qualities, but only as legislature on toxicity taken place, have the levels of toxicity in naturally occurring poisons been documented.

Exposure to Toxic and Poisonous Substances
Toxic ‘“ broadly speaking, anything that causes you harm can be toxic. This can range from chronic exposure to chemicals such as asbestos or mercury, acute exposure caused by an insect or snake bite, or any physical act that causes you harm, such as getting hit on the head or being exposed to bitter cold.
Poisonous ‘“ effects come from the ingestion or absorption of something harmful into your system. Cyanide and arsenic are commonly used poisons in the world of detective literature. Prolonged inhalation of poisonous gases such as carbon monoxide also constitutes as a poisonous substance.

1.Poisonous and toxic essentially refer to any substance or action that will cause you or anything else harm. These terms are often used interchangeably.
2.Toxic has a broader definition whereas poisonous usually refers to only biological agents.
3.Poison has long been a weapon of choice for mankind while toxic substances were only recently classed and regulated.

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  1. Does a poinsonous substance last permanently, while toxic one last temporary?
    Any suitable words to describe the division between the above two effects?


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