11 Blue Men Essay Research Paper Eleven — страница 5

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toxicology don’t even mention it. So Pensa’s report was pretty startling. But we accepted it, of course, without question or hesitation. Facts are facts. And we were glad to. It seemed to explain everything very nicely. What I’ve been saying about sodium-nitrite poisoning doesn’t mean that sodium nitrite itself is rare. Actually, it’s fairly common. It’s used in the manufacture of dyes and as a medical drug. We use it in treating certain heart conditions and for high blood pressure. But it also has another important use, one that made its presence at the Eclipse sound plausible. In recent years, and particularly during the war, sodium-nitrite has been used as a substitute for sodium nitrate in preserving meat. The government permits it but stipulates that the finished

meat must not contain more than one part of sodium nitrite per five thousand parts of meat. Cooking will safely destroy enough of that small quantity of the drug,” Dr. Greenberg shrugged. “Well Pellitteri had had the cook pick up a handful of salt – the same amount, as nearly as possible, as went into the oatmeal – and then had taken this to his office and found that it weighed approximately a hundred grams. So we didn’t have to think twice to realize that the proportion of nitrite in that batch of cereal was considerably higher than one to five thousand. Roughly, it must have been around one to about eighty before cooking destroyed part of the nitrite. It certainly looked as though Gettler, Pensa, and the cafeteria cook between them had given us the answer. I called up

Gettler and told him what Pensa had discovered and asked him to run a specific test for nitrites on his blood samples. He had, as a matter of course, held some blood back for later examination. His confirmation came through is a couple of hours. I went home that night feeling pretty good.” Dr. Greenberg’s serenity was a fugitive one. He awoke on Wednesday morning troubled in mind. A question had occurred to him that he was unable to ignore. “Something like a hundred and twenty-five people ate oatmeal at the Eclipse that morning,” he said to me, “but only eleven of them got sick. Why? The undeniable fact that those eleven old men were made sick by the ingestion of a toxic dose of sodium nitrite wasn’t enough to rest on. I wanted to know exactly how much sodium nitrite

each portion of that cooked oatmeal had contained. With Pensa’s help again, I found out. We prepared a batch just like the one the cook had made on Monday. Then Pensa measured out six ounces, the size of the average portion served at the Eclipse, and analyzed it. It contained two and a half grains of sodium nitrite. That explained why the hundred and fourteen other people did not become ill. The toxic dose of sodium nitrite is three grains. But it didn’t explain how each of our eleven had received an additional half-grain. It seemed extremely unlikely that the extra touch of nitrite had been in the oatmeal when it was served. It had to come in later. Then I began to get a glimmer. Some people sprinkle a little salt, instead of sugar, on hot cereal. Suppose, I thought, that

the busboy, or whoever had the job of keeping the table salt shakers filled, had made the same mistake that the cook had. It seemed plausible. Pellitteri was out of the office – I’ve forgotten where – so I got Food and Drugs to step over to the Eclipse, which was still under embargo, and bring back the shakers for Pensa to work on. There were seventeen of them, all good-sized one for each table. Sixteen contained either pure sodium chloride or just a few inconsequential traces of nitrite mixed in with the real salt, but the other was point thirty-seven per cent nitrite. That one was enough. A spoonful of that salt contained a bit more that half a grain.” “I went over to the hospital Thursday morning,” Dr. Pellitteri said. “Greenberg wanted me to check the table salt

angle with the men. They could tie the case up neatly for us. I drew a blank. They’d been discharged the night before, and God only knew where they were.” “Naturally,” Dr. Greenberg said, “it would have been nice to know for a fact that the old boys all sat at a certain table and that all of them put about a spoonful of salt from that particular shaker on their oatmeal, but it wasn’t essential. I was morally certain that they had. There just wasn’t any other explanation. There was one other question, however. Why did they use so much salt? For my own peace of mind, I wanted to know. All of a sudden, I remembered Pellitteri had said they were heavy drinkers. Well, several recent clinical studies have demonstrated that there is usually a subnormal concentration of