Palestinian bomb-makers have found ways to make their bombseven more dangerous by putting rat poison into them. Thepoison used in the Jerusalem bus bombing of June 17 was ananti-coagulant that caused survivors to bleed uncontrollablyfrom their wounds.

Palestinians want to “increase the number of casualties–tokill more people,” says Van Blackwood, of the Federation ofAmerican Scientists. They’re using rat poison right nowbecause that’s all they can get hold of, but they may moveon to more lethal chemicals in the future.

Most rat poison is fairly ineffective as a weapon againsthumans, because it?s not concentrated enough to have aneffect. Rat poison available in the U.S. is very diluted,since it?s mixed with foot to encourage the rodents to eatit. Carl Tanner of the pest-control company Liphatech says,”For one person to have an effect, he would have to eatpounds and pounds of this stuff.” Also, most rodenticidesare designed to take effect over a period of time. “Youwould not see an impact for four or five days,” Tanner says.

The most common rat poison in the United States is ananti-coagulant named warfarin, which is also used to treatpeople for blood clots and other circulatory problems. Youwould need three ounces of rat poison to just equal theamount of warfarin available in a prescription tablet, saysDr. Richard Weisman, director of the Weapons of MassDestruction-Poison-Bioterror Program at the University of Miami.

While warfarin is fairly ineffective, there are plenty ofother chemicals that work better, but are thankfully harderto get hold of. Old-fashioned rat poisons like arsenic andthallium, which cause death on a cellular level, would be amuch greater danger in bombs, says Weisman. According toTanner, less-widely used, but more potent rodenticides likeBrodifacoum would also be a threat. “I would be moreconcerned with nails than rat poison,” Weisman says.

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