Fatal occupational exposure

Paramedics were called to the scene after building security personnel had pulled two unconscious men from a small washroom, where there was a strong chemical odour and an open container of paint stripper (containing 91.2% methylene chloride and 6% methanol). Both men had been seen well approximately 20-30 minutes prior to their discovery. One was wearing a half mask with organic vapour cartridges. The men were found with intertwined limbs, which suggested that one had been trying to remove the other from the room. Both men were in cardiac arrest and one of the rescuers, who had performed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on both men, complained of nausea and vomiting. One man was pronounced dead 15 minutes after arrival at hospital when life support measures failed. The second victim was successfully resuscitated to pulse and blood pressure. However, he never regained consciousness or spontaneous respirations and he died on the fourth day in hospital. His carboxyhaemoglobin concentration increased from 2% to 8% over the nine hours following admission despite the administration of oxygen. The cause of death in these patients was not carbon monoxide poisoning secondary to methylene chloride exposure, but solvent induced narcosis due to the methylene chloride itself (Leikin et al., 1990).

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