Gaseous Poisons

=Carbon Dioxide.=--Carbon dioxide is a product of combustion and

respiration, and is generated in many ways during fermentation. It is a

constituent of choke damp due to explosions in coal-mines, and is

given off from lime-kilns, brick-kilns, and cement-works. It is often

met with in dangerous quantities in wells and in brewers' vats. From 10

to 15 per cent. in the atmosphere would prove fatal, but even 2 per

cent. inhaled for long would produce serious symptoms. The proportion

usually present in air is 0.04 per cent.

Symptoms.--Inhalation of the pure gas causes spasm of the glottis,

insensibility, and death from asphyxia, at once; diluted, causes sense

of weight in forehead and back of head, giddiness, vomiting, somnolence,

loss of muscular power. Insensibility, stertorous breathing, lividity of

face and body, and death from asphyxia. Convulsions occasionally.

Post-Mortem Appearances.--Face swollen and livid, or calm and pale;

lividity is most marked in eyelids, lips, ears, etc.; limbs usually

flaccid, abdomen distended; right side of heart, lungs, and large veins,

gorged with dark-coloured blood. Brain and membranes congested.

Treatment.--Pure air, cold affusion, stimulants, artificial

respiration, galvanism, inhalation of oxygen, venesection, transfusion.

=Carbonic Oxide.=--This is one of the most poisonous of gases. It is

evolved in the process of burning charcoal and coke in stoves or

furnaces. Water-gas, obtained by passing steam over heated coke,

contains 40 per cent. of the substance, the remainder being chiefly

hydrogen. It forms the chief part of the deadly 'choke damp' after an

explosion in a mine. Two per cent. in the atmosphere is immediately


Symptoms.--When in large amount, insensibility comes on at once;

when in very small amounts, headache, giddiness, noises in the ears,

nausea, and vomiting, with prostration, insensibility, and coma. There

may be convulsions. Even in cases which recover, permanent impairment of

the brain may result.

Post-Mortem Appearances.--The blood is bright red in colour, due to

the interaction of carbonic oxide with hæmoglobin. A rosy hue of the

skin-surface and viscera is often noticed. Bright red patches of colour

are found over the surface of the body. The spectrum of the blood is


Treatment.--Ammonia to the nostrils, inhalation of oxygen, cold douche

in moderation, artificial respiration, transfusion of blood.

=Coal Gas.=--Coal gas contains light carburetted hydrogen or marsh gas,

olefiant gas, ammonia, sulphuretted hydrogen, carbonic acid, carbonic

oxide, free hydrogen, and nitrogen. Coal gas has an offensive odour,

burns with a yellowish-white flame, yielding water and carbonic acid.

Cases of poisoning often due to escape of gas into the room.

Symptoms.--Headache and giddiness, foaming at mouth, vomiting,

convulsions, tetanic spasms, stertorous breathing, dilated pupil. The

breath smells of gas; there is profound stupor; the patient, if alive,

exhales gas from the lungs when removed into a fresh room or into the

air. Smell of gas in the room and in patient's breath.

Post-Mortem Appearances.--Pallor of skin and internal tissues; florid

colour of neck, back, and muscles, if much CO present in the coal gas;

fluid florid blood; infiltration of lungs.

Treatment.--Fresh air, artificial respiration, cold affusion,

diffusible stimulants; inhalation of oxygen freely.

=Sulphuretted Hydrogen= is characterized by its odour, like that of

rotten eggs. It is extremely poisonous.

Symptoms.--Giddiness, pain and oppression in stomach, nausea, loss of

power; delirium, tetanus, and convulsions.

Post-Mortem Appearances.--Fluid and black blood (sulph-hæmoglobin),

smell of H{2}S on opening the body; loss of contractility of muscles,

rapid putrefaction.

Treatment.--Fresh air, stimulants, inhalation of chlorine.

Tests.--Acetate of lead throws down a brown or black precipitate

according to the quantity of the gas.

=Sewer Gas.=--Cesspool emanations usually consist of a mixture of

sulphuretted hydrogen, sulphide of ammonium, and nitrogen; but sometimes

it is only deoxidized air with an excess of carbonic acid gas.

Symptoms.--If poison concentrated, death may ensue at once; if gas

diluted, or exposure only short, insensibility, lividity, hurried

respiration, weak pulse, dilated pupils, elevation of temperature to

104°, tonic convulsions not unlike those of tetanus.

Treatment.--Fresh air, oxygen, with artificial respiration.

Stimulants, hypodermic of strychnine, and alternate hot and cold douche.

=Irritant Gases= are--(1) Nitrous acid gas; (2) sulphurous acid gas; (3)

hydrochloric acid gas; (4) chlorine; (5) bromine; (6) ammonia. They have

the common property of causing irritation and inflammation of the eyes,

throat, and air-passages, and may cause spasm of the glottis,

bronchitis, and pneumonia.

=Sulphurous Acid Gas.=--One of the products of combustion of common


=Hydrochloric Acid Gas.=--Irrespirable when concentrated, and very

irritating when diluted. Very destructive to vegetable life.

=Chlorine.=--Used in bleaching, and as a disinfectant. Greenish-yellow

colour, suffocating odour. In poisoning, inhalation of sulphuretted

hydrogen gives relief.

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