Chemistry - Does milk drinking prevent long-term chemical poisoning?

Solution 1:

This post only concerns chronic poisoning, i.e. exposure to a harmful chemical in low amounts for an extended period of time. The answer is not applicable to acute poisoning; in that case a doctor should immediately be called.

Basically there are three types of chemicals that have a harmfulness threshold to which one can be exposed over extended periods of time.

Type one includes substances such as mercury that are primarily aggregated in the body rather than excreted. In rare cases, drinking milk may enhance excretion thereby decontaminating the body. I haven’t heard of any such examples, though, and I would assume it to be a very rare case so neglegible.

Type two includes those substances that the body can actually metabolise to harmless products. This would include most protein poisons. However, the metabolism shouldn’t be enhanced by drinking milk so it will likely have a non-effect.

Type three includes those that, while they aren’t metabolised, just don’t do enough damage at low concentrations. That would basically include your list of acidic and basic substances but also non-aggregating metals at low concentrations. For these, excretion is not significantly enhanced or reduced by drinking milk so again no effect is expected.

Comparing the acute exposure to acids to the chronic one, in the former giving a person milk to drink is actively encouraged. This is because milk contains a lot of proteins that can act as buffers, increasing the body’s buffering potential and reducing the effects of the acid. The body does have more than enough buffering capabilities to cope with chronic cases though, so even there regularly drinking milk would not help.

Tl;dr: Milk is a great drink but cannot act as a type of preventive antidote.

Solution 2:

Drinking milk won't help of course if you're breathing in carbon monoxide. So drinking anything only can help if you ingested the poison.

Whether or not milk would help more than an equal amount of water would depend on the poison ingested. It is possible that the particular poison could be actually neutralized, or it is possible that it would dissolve in the fat, thus allowing more time for other measures such as pumping the stomach out.

So if milk actually neutralizes the poison, then drinking milk would certainly help long term exposure. However if milk just dilutes the poison then over time the long term exposure would reach some steady state.

For the strong acids and alkalies that you listed chronic exposure to low amounts will do no harm. In other words for those compounds the harm will be done in minutes, and not build up in the body over years of exposure.

Another caveat here is that ingestion is the most preventable exposure. In any chemistry lab eating or drinking is against the rules.