14 things you eat, drink, and use all the time that can kill you

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Water might seem like the least harmful substance on the planet, but drinking too much of it can kill.
So can too much or too little of a number of other things most of us take for granted, from caffeine to the stuff you use to clean your bathroom.

To calculate how much of each of these items would be dangerous enough to kill, we've used a standard measure of toxicity known as LD50, the individual dose it would take to kill half the animals it was tested on.

This amount can vary pretty significantly depending on someone's health, gender, and medical history. The potentially deadly dosages in the slides that follow were calculated for the average 196-pound American male.

1. 120 cups of coffee

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  Coffee's great for making you feel more alert and boosting your attention span, and at low doses, it's perfectly safe.

But at high concentrations, caffeine can cause insomnia, dizziness, vomiting, headaches, and heart problems , and too much in one sitting can be deadly.

The risk of overdoing it is highest for pure powdered caffeine. A single tablespoon of this stuff — the equivalent of about 120 cups of coffee — can kill. During the summer of 2014, two young men died in separate incidents after each drank mixtures of pure powdered caffeine and water.

2. Six liters of water

Water regulates the shape of the cells inside our bodies — too much of it, and they puff up like balloons; too little, and they shrink.

An excess of water in and around our cells is called water intoxication, or hyponatremia. Drinking too much water, something athletes can do accidentally while training, can cause it. A 2005 study of 2002 Boston Marathon runners, for example, found that about 1/6th of the runners they studied had a mild form of the condition, with symptoms ranging from nausea to vomiting.

But an extreme case of water intoxication takes its worst toll on the brain, where our tightly-packed neurons have little room to accommodate the extra water. A variety of neurological problems can result, from headaches to confusion, seizures, and, in rare untreated cases, death.

One of the most well-known cases of water intoxication happened in 2007, when  28-year-old Californian Jennifer Strange downed six liters of water in under three hours as part of a radio station contest. Strange died a few hours later.

3. 48 teaspoons of salt

Just as you can overdo it with water, you can also overdo it with its antidote — salt.

The delicate balance of water and salt (or sodium) in and around our cells is what keeps them happy. When there's too little sodium (too much water), the cells swell up. When there's too much sodium (too little water), on the other hand, they shrink.

This condition is known as hypernatremia. Its milder symptoms include fatigue and weakness, but if the condition worsens it can lead to seizures, a coma and, in rare cases, death.

4. 71 extra strength Tylenol pills

Each year, roughly 460 Americans die overdosing on acetaminophen, the main pain-killing ingredient in Tylenol.

About 150 of those deaths are accidental, ProPublica estimates, making acetaminophen more deadly than all other over-the-counter pain relievers combined.

The deadly dose is about 35,600 milligrams, according to the FDA, or about 71 extra-strength pills.

5. 13 shots of alcohol in rapid succession

You know drinking can blur your vision, slur your speech, mess with your memory, and make you slower to react. But those same effects can be deadly if we drink too much too quickly.

Between 2006 and 2012, some 88,000 Americans died from excessive alcohol consumption. Many of these deaths were caused by alcohol poisoning, a glut of alcohol in the bloodstream which can cause the areas of the brain that control the functions that keep our bodies running — like our breathing and consciousness — to shut down.

Alcohol poisoning typically happens during a binge, when someone drinks a large amount of alcohol over a short period. For the average person, about 13 shots in the span of a few hours would be enough to kill, but the number varies widely depending on size, gender, and a variety of other factors.

6. 85 chocolate bars

Although it tastes delicious to us, chocolate contains enough of the toxic chemical theobromine to kill a small animal (that's why you can't feed it to pets).

The same ingredient can kill people too, but because we metabolize it so much better than cats or dogs, we'd have to eat far more of it to have any serious health effects.

In people, a potentially deadly dose of theobromine would be about 1,000 milligrams per kilogram, or the equivalent of about 85 full-sized chocolate bars. For cats, though, it’s just a fifth of that amount — so just a few small pieces of the candy could be dangerous.

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