That’s the claim in a meme shared on Facebook in South Africa.
It starts with a warning that botox is the “deadliest poison in the world”, and shows a small bottle labelled “Botulinum Toxin Type A” and “Botox”.
Could 4 grams of botox really kill all the people on the planet?
Botox is lethal
Botulinum toxin, also known as botox, is a neurotoxic protein. This is a type of poisonous chemical that acts on the nervous system. The bacteria that make the toxin are found naturally in many places.
Botox comes in seven different forms, named types A to G. Type A is used both commercially and medically and is also capable of causing the fatal disease human botulism.
Botox is widely used in cosmetic non-surgical procedures that help patients look younger.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), botox is one of the most lethal substances known.
“Botulinum toxins block nerve functions and can lead to respiratory and muscular paralysis,” the WHO says.
People usually die from botulism poisoning if the toxin reaches the respiratory system, which causes respiratory failure and eventually death.
Babies younger than six months are also highly prone to infant botulism.
Four grams ‘in the right ball park’
Africa Check spoke to Dr Simon Cotton, author and honorary senior lecturer in chemistry at the University of Birmingham in the UK.
Cotton said the figure in the meme was “in the right ball park”.
He referred us to two reliable sources, for evidence of this.
In a chapter on the “botulinus toxin” in the book Molecules of Death, the toxicity of botox – that is, the amount of botox required to kill a human – is said to be between 0.00000001 grams and 0.0000001 grams.
In another book, The Poison Paradox, author John Timbrell says that “as little as one hundred-millionth of a gram (0.00000001 grams) would be toxic to a human”.
Based on this, about 8 grams of botox would kill a population of 8 billion people, according to Cotton.
He suggested that the meme used a different source for its toxicity figure. But “we are dealing in small differences in what are very small numbers,” he added.
Cotton also told us that botulinum toxin is one of the two most potent toxins known. The other is ricin, a poison found in castor beans.
Eight billion individual doses?
So, yes, botox is a deadly toxin. A tiny amount – perhaps as little as 4 grams – of the toxin could kill all 8 billion people on the planet.
But the claim is just an explanation of how poisonous botox is.
It couldn’t, practically, kill everyone on earth.
Those 4 grams would have to be divided into 8 billion doses. Each dose would then have to be given to each person on the planet. – Butchie Seroto
Republish our content for free
For publishers: what to do if your post is rated false
A fact-checker has rated your Facebook or Instagram post as “false”, “altered”, “partly false” or “missing context”. This could have serious consequences. What do you do?
Click on our guide for the steps you should follow.Publishers guide
Africa Check teams up with Facebook
Africa Check is a partner in Meta's third-party fact-checking programme to help stop the spread of false information on social media.
The content we rate as “false” will be downgraded on Facebook and Instagram. This means fewer people will see it.
You can also help identify false information on Facebook. This guide explains how.