November 15th, 2006


Caustic Chemicals, Burns, and Shock

Seems to be a carnival of pain the last few days. Must be the Nanowrimo spirit. :P

A character is going to suffer significant burns from a caustic substance. It would be very nice for the plot if the substance involved could be CaO (Calcium Oxide).  This compound is commonly known as Lime.

1) Does Lime have the potential to cause third or fourth degree burns?
2) How long would it take? (The character has no way to mitigate the burn.)
3) If you have personal experience of a caustic burn, could you comment on what it felt like? Apologies in advance for making you relive the experience.

Additionally, side effects. Research indicates that shock and overdose are possible.

1) The burn will begin on the hand and be encouraged up the arm. As noted above, this will be a prolonged burn. Would the pain or tissue damage cause shock?
2) What classification of shock would result? (Hypovolaemic, Distributive?)

There are notes on several sites, including Wikipedia, on overdoses. A kind of "blood-poisoning" is also mentioned, where the akalinity of the blood rises and begins to damage the internal organs.

1) Would a severe, continuing caustic burn effect the blood's alkalinity?
2) Shock tends to increase the acidity, rather than the alkalinity, of the blood. Would metabolic acidosis be a more likely outcome?

I'm realizing from research that the burn becomes exponentially more dangerous with the side effects. IE: dehydration is bad; dehydration plus sweating from pain and shock, is worse. Sweat + Caustic Burn will be painful, but CaO also reacts with water, gradually intensifying the burn. And if the burn or the shock causes the blood to become especially acidic or basic, this will damage the internal organs . . .

These are small factors, but over time they might add up to real damage. And since I'd like the character to survive, I'm trying to strike the right balance of severity with survivability.

Thank you!


High-altitude fruits

Does anyone know of any indigenous fruits that would grow on trees at high altitudes, like 10k-15k feet? Principally a drier climate, but not completely devoid of water. Perhaps like the higher reaches of the Andes.

The googling I've done has given me some fruits that grow up to 10k feet, but I know i need to go higher than that.


EDIT: Thanks for the assistance everyone, I've got some ideas to work with now. Much appreciated!

Drug trafficking

My sister and I are collaborating on a story about someone who is suckered into smuggling drugs to and from abroad. Obviously this must be handled with great sensitivity. I've known different people who got into dealing, but never anyone who became a "mule". My question basically being, how does that happen? How do people start?

I'm also using Ben Elton's novel High Society for storyline help, because it includes a character who gets into drug trafficking after she is approached in a club by a man who offers her £1000 and a holiday to Thailand to do it. Is that realistic?