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Am J Emerg Med. 1990 Nov;8(6):534-7.

Methylene chloride: report of five exposures and two deaths.

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Department of Medicine, Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center, Chicago, IL 60612.


Five patients presented to the emergency department (ED) following exposure in an enclosed space to methylene chloride (dichloromethane), used for removing paint. Two workers and three rescuers were involved. Two rescuers complained only of dizziness and mild nausea, and were subsequently discharged from the ED. One rescuer was asymptomatic. Worker no. 1 arrived in cardiac arrest and eventually died in the ED despite resuscitation efforts. Worker no. 2 also presented to the ED in cardiac arrest, and was successfully resuscitated to pulse and blood pressure. However, he never regained consciousness or spontaneous respirations, and died on the fourth day. Of interest is that worker no. 2's carboxyhemoglobin level increased from 2% to 8% over the 9 hours following admission, despite administration of 40% to 50% oxygen by endotracheal tube. Among the conclusions that can be drawn are (1) the cause of death in these patients was not carbon monoxide poisoning, but solvent-induced narcosis; (2) carboxyhemoglobin levels may continue to rise following cessation of exposure, despite administration of high flow oxygen; (3) rescuers can easily become victims if proper protective clothing and respirators are not worn.

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