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Forensic Sci Int. 1999 Apr 26;101(2):141-9.

A case of fatal intoxication with ammonium sulfate and a toxicological study using rabbits.

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Department of Forensic Medicine, Akita University School of Medicine, Japan.


Agricultural fertilizers such as ammonium sulfate are widely used in house gardens as well as in agriculture, but few case reports or toxicological studies of ingested fertilizers have been reported. This paper investigates a fatal case of ammonium sulfate poisoning and demonstrates its clinical and biochemical findings in rabbits. An 85-year-old woman was found dead lying on the ground outside her house in the middle of March, but the autopsy could not determine the cause of her death. Examination at the police laboratory of the solution in the beer can found next to her showed that it was very likely ammonium sulfate. Our measurement showed a significant increase of ammonium and sulfate ions in serum and gastric contents. The cause of her death was determined as poisoning by ammonium sulfate. The total dose of 1500 mg/kg of ammonium sulfate was administered to three rabbits, all of which showed similar symptoms such as mydriasis, irregular respiratory rhythms, local and general convulsions, until they fell into respiratory failure with cardiac arrest. EEG showed slow, suppressive waves and high-amplitude slowing wave pattern, which is generally observed clinically in hyperammonemia in man and animal. There was a remarkable increase in the concentration of ammonium ion and inorganic sulfate ion in serum, and blood gas analysis showed severe metabolic acidosis. These results, mainly findings by EEG, have shown that a rapid increase in ammonium ions in blood can cause damaging the central nervous system without microscopic change. When the cause of death can not be determined, measurement of ammonium ion, inorganic ion and electrolytes in blood as well as in stomach contents at forensic autopsy is necessary.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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