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Int J Legal Med. 2016 Nov;130(6):1535-1539. Epub 2016 Apr 25.

Quantification of fatal helium exposure following self-administration.

Author information

1
Department of Forensic Medicine, Angers University Hospital, Angers cedex 09, F-49933, France. stmalbranque@chu-angers.fr.
2
Department of Forensic Medicine, Angers University Hospital, Angers cedex 09, F-49933, France.
3
Forensic Toxicology and Chemistry Unit, University Center of Legal Medicine, Lausanne-Geneva, CH-1000, Lausanne 25, Switzerland.

Abstract

Helium is nontoxic at standard conditions, plays no biological role, and is found in trace amounts in human blood. Helium can be dangerous if inhaled to excess, since it is a simple tissue hypoxia and so displaces the oxygen needed for normal respiration. This report presents a fatal case of a middle-aged male victim who died from self-administered helium exposure. For the first time, the quantification of the helium levels in gastric and lung air and in blood samples was achieved using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry after airtight sampling. The results of the toxicological investigation showed that death was caused directly by helium exposure. However, based on the pathomorphological changes detected during the forensic autopsy, we suppose that the fatal outcome was the result of the lack of oxygen after inhalation.

KEYWORDS:

Forensic science; GC-MS; Helium; Hypoxia; Suffocation; Suicide

PMID:
27113477
DOI:
10.1007/s00414-016-1364-x
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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