It is said that hoaxes never die, they just get reborn again and again. The hoax that Panadol kills vultures and is toxic to humans has been around for ages. We debunked it in this Tech ARP forum post in 2011, but it’s been revived again. Let’s take a look at the hoax, which amazingly hasn’t changed since we last saw it in 2011 :
We will debunk this hoax that Panadol kills vultures and humans once again, but first, a short clarification of what Panadol is.
Panadol = Tylenol
Panadol is a GSK (GlaxoSmithKline) trade name for paracetamol. Due to its longevity and popularity since it was introduced in 1955, the name Panadol has been genericised. Many people use it to refer to paracetamol, irrespective of it comes from GSK or another company.
Paracetamol is also known as acetaminophen in the United States, Canada, Japan, Venezuela and Columbia. In those countries, particularly in the United States and Canada, it’s known generically as Tylenol. In other words :
Paracetamol = Panadol = Tylenol = Acetaminophen
Now, let’s debunk this hoax that Panadol kills vultures and humans!
Panadol Kills Vultures (And Humans)?
The ancient ritual of the Parsis giving their dead a “sky burial” is dying due to a near extinct vulture population. The vultures in the Indian state of Maharashtra have been virtually wiped out in a matter of a few decades. Across India, the white-rumped vultures that used to number 80 odd million have been reduced to a few thousand.
What killed the vultures was finally ascertained, in 2003, to be the anti-inflammatory drug – diclofenac.
Diclofenac is very commonly used in India to treat fever, pain, aches from diseases and wounds. It is also commonly administered to livestock for the same purposes. However, diclofenac is lethal to vultures. Eating from a carcass of an animal that had been treated with diclofenac recently is often enough to kill them.
Diclofenac is so toxic to vultures that scientists estimate that if only 1% of animal carcasses are contaminated with diclofenac, it will decimate the vulture population. Unfortunately, a later study showed that 10% of the animal carcasses were contaminated with diclofenac, which would explain why the vulture population were destroyed so rapidly.
So, no, Panadol did not kill the vultures. It was diclofenac. That’s why Indian, Nepal and Pakistan banned the veterinary use of diclofenac in 2006, and replaced it with meloxicam which is not toxic to vultures.
Will Paracetamol Kill Us Or Destroy Our Kidneys / Liver / Health?
Paracetamol is rapidly metabolized with a half-life of about 2 hours. That’s why we find ourselves taking paracetamol up to 4 times a day. If paracetamol can stay in the body for 5 years, heck, you would only need one dose and it would last for the next few years!
The funniest part of the hoax is the claim that doctors refuse to take paracetamol for headaches, and prefer herbal medicine instead. It’s such an unbelievably bold LIE. Doctors take paracetamol for their ailments all the time, which can be verified because they would have prescribed it to themselves!
I personally prefer to trust the known effects and properties of paracetamol to the unknown effects and properties of herbal medicine. I have been using paracetamol for DECADES and have given my children paracetamol for their fevers too. Would I do that if I didn’t think it was safe?
To be sure, paracetamol (like any other substances) can be toxic when taken in excessive amounts. Even water can be toxic, for the matter. Overdosing on paracetamol can damage the liver. Excessive amounts of its metabolite, NAPQI, will deplete the liver’s glutathione and damage its cells.
How much do you need to consume to overdose on paracetamol? Usually taking 10 grams at one go – that’s 20 tablets of standard 500 mg paracetamol, or 6 grams or 12 tablets a day. Alcohol consumption increases the risks of liver damage, so the maximum dose should be cut in half for those who consume alcohol.
Excessive, prolonged use of paracetamol can also cause SICK (small, indented and calcified kidneys). How much is excessive? That’s 300 grams a year – 600 tablets a year, or 50 tablets a month.
Now, how many of us actually consume enough paracetamol to run the risk of liver or kidney damage? Everyone knows the recommended limit is 2 tablets every 6 hours, which is 4 grams per day. Usually, we all make do with just 2 to 4 tablets a day.
The writer is right that we should think twice before popping a pill into our mouths, but we should also think TWICE and think HARD about the truth of any forwarded e-mail that comes our way.
Share this with your family and friends so they won’t get fooled!
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