tanks, and similar places. Some sources of inhalation
chemical poisoning are listed in table 5-5.
Inhaled substances can cause
After a few minutes of
exposure, the smell is no longer detected,
fooling the individual into believing the
substance is no longer there and, thus, no
longer a danger.
Carbon monoxide is the most common agent of gas
poisoning. It is present in exhaust gases of internal
combustion engines as well as in sewer gas, lanterns,
charcoal grills, and in manufactured gas used for
heating and cooking.
It gives no warning of its
presence since it is completely odorless and tasteless.
The victim may lose consciousness and suffer
respiratory distress with no warning other than slight
dizziness, weakness, and headache. The lips and skin
of a victim of carbon monoxide poisoning are
characteristically cherry red. Death may occur within
a few minutes.
Most inhalation poisoning causes shortness of
breath and coughing. The victims skin will turn blue.
If the respiratory problems are not corrected, cardiac
arrest may follow.
Inhaling fine metal fumes can cause a special type
of acute or delayed poisoning. These metal fumes are
generated from heating metal to boiling and
evaporation during hot metal work in such operations
as metal cutting or welding. The resulting illness is
called metal fume fever (MFF). In the Navy, the most
common cause of MFF is the inhalation of vaporized
zinc found in the galvanized covering of iron/steel.
Proper local and general ventilation and/or the use of
respiratory protection are necessary to prevent this
The first stage of treatment for an inhalation
poisoning is to remove the victim from the toxic
atmosphere immediately. WARNING: Never try to
remove a victim from the toxic environment if you do
not have the proper protective mask or breathing
apparatus, or if you are not trained in its use. Too often,
well-intentioned rescuers become victims. If help is
not immediately available, and if you know you can
reach and rescue the victim, take a deep breath, hold it,
enter the area, and pull the victim out. Next,
1. start basic life support (the ABC+D&Es);
2. remove or decontaminate the clothing (if
chemical warfare agents or volatile fuels were
3. keep the victim quiet, treat for shock, and
administer oxygen; and
4. transport the victim to a medical treatment
facility for further treatment.
Some substances may cause tissue irritation or
destruction by contact with the skin, eyes, and lining of
Source of Exposure
alcohol, amyl acetate
Nail polish remover
Fuels, Stoddard solvent,
PD-680, mineral spirits,
evaporation of dry ice, wells
Fires, lightning, heating and
Water purification, sewage
Sewer, decaying materials,
Paint stripper, solvent, dyes
Aerosol can propellant
Plastic adhesive, acrylic
paint, shoe polish
T r i c h l o r o e t h a n e
Table 5-5.Sources of Inhalation Poisoning