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Registered: 01/30/03
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Mass poisoning in Pont-Saint-Esprit
    #3921899 - 03/15/05 06:39 PM (11 years, 7 months ago)

You all probably have heard of the mass poisoning that took place back in August 1951 in this small village in the Southern France (even nowadays its population doesn't exceed 10,000 people).

I'm working on a little write-up about ergotism right now, but the case of Pont-Saint-Esprit has successfully confused me and I'm looking for some answers.

Most sources without any doubt place the blame on the ergot fungus (Claviceps purpurea), so I was pretty sure about it until I read what Albert Hoffman writes about the Pont-Saint-Esprit case in his LSD - My Problem Child:


The mass poisoning in the southern French city of Pont-St. Esprit in the year 1951, which many writers have attributed to ergot-containing bread, actually had nothing to do with ergotism. It rather involved poisoning by an organic mercury compound that was utilized for disinfecting seed.

This led me to further digging and this is what I came up with.

From the beginning it was clear that it was a food poisoning, whose common agent was the bread made by the same baker. Still, neither of the initial hypotheses about what exactly caused it are proved to be the culprit. And those are:
  • presence of ergot's sclerotia in the flour (Gabbai et al.)
  • presence of methyl-mercury, a well-known fungicidal agent (Bouchet, 1980)
  • Thirty years after the occurrence, C. Moreau (1982) put forward a new hypothesis, making reference to A. fumigatus, a notorious mould pullulating in grain victuals

As far as I understand the debate is still open as I don't see 100% proof to any of these theories. Also many blaim the French government and claim that under the pressure from the miller's unions it has tried to prove that mercury based insecticides are to blame.

I'm wondering if somebody can shed some light on this. Any references will be greatly appreciated.

Thanks in advance,


Edited by ivi (03/15/05 06:44 PM)

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Re: Mass poisoning in Pont-Saint-Esprit [Re: ivi]
    #3921933 - 03/15/05 06:47 PM (11 years, 7 months ago)

Lemme help you with that. I ahve done some loking up about that, before. I'll get back to you soon. Nice Avatar, btw

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Re: Mass poisoning in Pont-Saint-Esprit [Re: ivi]
    #3921966 - 03/15/05 06:57 PM (11 years, 7 months ago)

Plants of the Gods is a good book that touches on this subject briefly.

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Re: Mass poisoning in Pont-Saint-Esprit [Re: ivi]
    #4313183 - 06/19/05 07:57 AM (11 years, 4 months ago)

A shameless bump for the summer season :crazy:


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Re: Mass poisoning in Pont-Saint-Esprit [Re: ivi]
    #4423068 - 07/19/05 12:49 PM (11 years, 3 months ago)

"The Fifth Kingdom" has a nice piece on Ergot and some of the chemicals involved.

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Re: Mass poisoning in Pont-Saint-Esprit [Re: ivi]
    #10446457 - 06/03/09 10:51 AM (7 years, 4 months ago)

You still around?  For some reason yesterday evening, I pulled from my files an article I'd found in a magazine in 1968 titled "The Town that Went MAD."  I was 13 in '68, and that story scared the hell outta me - particularly the images that accompanied the article.  In this article, it was concluded that LSD in the flour was the cause of the poisoning.  I didn't realize until I Googled the subject this morning that controversy still existed.  Personally, I can't see how it was mercury-based, but I'm not a scientist or a chemist, just an interested reader.  Since I don't believe too much in coincidence, I wondered if you'd be interested in a copy of this article.  I'd have to send a copy via snail-mail, since what I have is a fragile, yellowed original article I took out of the magazine.

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Re: Mass poisoning in Pont-Saint-Esprit [Re: DianeB]
    #10446755 - 06/03/09 12:32 PM (7 years, 4 months ago)

ivi was last seen here on: 05/30/09 04:14 AM


I suggest sending a PM rather than bumping a 4 year old thread.  You can use this link...

It drinks the alcohol and abstains from the weed or else it gets the hose again. -Chemy

The difference between the substances doesn't matter. This is a war on consciousness, on our right to the very essence of what we are. With no control over that, we have no need to speak of freedom or a free society. -fireseed

"If we are going to have a war on marijuana, the least we can do is pull the sick and the dying off the battlefield." -Neal Levine (MPP)

I find the whole "my drug should be legal but yours should be illegal" mindset disgusting and hypocritical. It's what George Bush and company do when they drink a cocktail and debate the best way to imprison marijuana users. -Diploid

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