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Comparison of Methanol Exposure Routes Reported to Texas Poison Control Centers

Author(s): Givens, Melissa | Kalbfleisch, Kristine | Bryson, Scott

Journal: Western Journal of Emergency Medicine
ISSN 1936-900X

Volume: 9;
Issue: 3;
Start page: 150;
Date: 2008;
Original page

Keywords: methanol | toxic alcohol | methyl alcohol

OBJECTIVE: Methanol poisoning by ingestion is well represented in current emergency medicine literature. Much less described, however, is poisoning via intentional inhalation of methanol-containing products such as carburetor cleaner. This study intends to explore the exposure routes and treatment patterns of methanol cases reported to Texas Poison Centers.METHODS: All cases of methanol exposures from January 2003 to May 2005 were collected from the Texas Poison Center Network database "Toxicall." Inclusion criteria were 1) methanol as primary exposure, and 2) documented route of exposure. Exclusion criteria were unknown, dermal, and eye exposures. Data was extracted from documented calls to Texas Poison Centers and analyzed using descriptive statistics.RESULTS: A total of 203 cases were collected from 6 regional Poison Centers. Eighty seven cases had inhalation as the route of exposure, while 81 were methanol ingestions. Carburetor cleaner was responsible for nearly all the inhalational cases (79/87) while ingestions involved mostly windshield washer fluid (39/81) and carburetor cleaner (20/81). Seventy-eight percent of the inhalational exposures were intentional while most of the ingestions were accidental (49/75) and suicidal (18/75). An anion gap was documented in 31 of the inhalational cases and in 10 of the ingestions. Dialysis, use of fomepizole, and vision loss were documented for both types of exposure. Fifty-six percent of the inhalational group was admitted compared to 46% of the ingestion group.CONCLUSION: We propose that the results obtained from our review show inhalational exposure involving methanol (e.g., "huffing") represents a significant source of toxicity in the studied population. This is in contrast to previous literature that proposed inhalational toxicity was rare and aggressive treatment usually not necessary in cases of inhalation of methanol-containing carburetor cleaners.

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