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Clin Toxicol (Phila). 2013 Mar;51(3):182-5. doi: 10.3109/15563650.2013.772624.

Cases from NACCT acute and intensive care symposium: altered mental status, seizures, and rash in a fumigation company employee.

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  • 1Division of Clinical Toxicology, Department of Emergency Medicine, Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center, Richmond, VA 23298-0522, USA.



Methyl bromide is a halogenated aliphatic hydrocarbon that exists as a colorless gas or a volatile liquid. Methyl bromide historically had been used in fire extinguishers but is more commonly used as a gas fumigant for soil-borne diseases and pests. Methyl bromide is being phased out due to concerns for ozone depletion but can still be found. It is readily absorbed through the lungs while dermal absorption can also occur. Signs and symptoms of severe exposures include headache, respiratory distress, pulmonary hemorrhage, and seizures. In large pulmonary exposures, death can occur as rapidly as 1 h usually from respiratory failure. Methyl bromide can penetrate clothing and protective equipment presenting challenges to first responders. There is a debate over the mechanism of toxicity of methyl bromide and the role of hemodialysis and chelation in treatment.


A 22-year-old female employee of a fumigation company contacted emergency medical services (EMS) after opening a tank of compressed methyl bromide in her car. She was initially combative and confused. She underwent two water dermal decontaminations and was transported to the nearest tertiary center. She rapidly progressed to obtundation with seizure-like activity and dysrhythmias. Despite the supportive care and resuscitative efforts, she died approximately 1 h after her call to EMS.


Methyl bromide exposures can be fatal, and this case highlights the difficulty in managing these acutely poisoned patients. Questions for consideration after this case include time spent on decontamination, use of adjunctive anti-epileptic drugs, role of chelation therapy, and the role of hemodialysis in the treatment of methyl bromide poisoning.

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