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automotive brake fluid must have a high boiling point due to the large sum of heat generated during braking. Brake fluids much contain the toxic alcohol diethylene ethylene glycol ( DEG ), which has a seethe point of about 470°F. Diethylene ethylene glycol ( DEG ) is sweet-tasting, odorless, and colorless. If swallowed, DEG can be very dangerous, even fateful, if patients do not receive immediate medical care. DEG poison has three feature phases. First, drunkenness, vomiting, and changes in the body ’ sulfur acid balance ( acidosis ). moment, the acidosis worsens and liver and kidney injury develop, which can lead to death without allow aesculapian intervention. The final examination stage consists of stay and sometimes fateful neurological effects including changes in the brain and spinal cord, ocular heart damage, and complete or partial muscle paralysis. early diagnosis and treatment is essential in preventing such complications. DEG perniciousness can be minimized by fomepizole – a drug stocked in hospitals .
humble children ( and pets ) will drink sweet-tasting brake fluid containing DEG. If recognized right away and the child receives emergency medical care, the likelihood of good poison is greatly reduced .
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DEG has been connected with at least 12 mass poisonings, not because of its use in bracken fluent but because it was intentionally or unintentionally used in products intended for human consumption. The first attested mass poison was in 1937 when a pharmaceutical manufacturer introduced an elixir of sulfanilamide ( an antibiotic ) formulated with DEG. At least 105 people died in that incident. The Federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act of 1938 was enacted following this tragedy to provide more consumer protective covering by creating and enforcing safety standards .
In 2008-2009, 57 children under the senesce of 3 years were poisoned with DEG in Nigeria and 54 of them died from kidney failure. Almost all of the children were known to have been given an acetaminophen-containing teething medication. DEG contamination was found in bottles of the medication from patients ’ homes and in four batches of the product from the manufacturer .
In Panama in 2006, at least 78 people died from unexplained kidney failure and neurological illness. It was determined subsequently that a cough syrup was contaminated with DEG. The syrup was manufactured using “ glycerol ” imported from China via a european mediator. That “ glycerol ” contained approximately 22 % DEG .
presently, such large-scale poisonings from medications contaminated with DEG occur largely in developing countries. In many cases this substitution is suspected to be economically motivated since DEG is less expensive than safe pharmaceutical-grade solvents such as glycerol. similarly, in 1985 several austrian wineries were found to be using diethylene ethylene glycol as a bait in their wines in an effort to cut costs. There was one case of kidney failure associated with drinking DEG-contaminated wine. No bulk poisonings were reported, probably because the wines were tainted with minor quantities of DEG .
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If brake fluid is swallowed or gets in the eyes:
- If you suspect person has swallowed brake fluid, do not make the person vomit as some of these products could cause lung injury with vomiting. immediately check the web POISON CONTROL
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® on-line tool for guidance or call Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222 .
- When brake fluid gets in the eyes, minor aggravation and inflammation can occur. dangerous eye injury is not likely, but the eyes should be rinsed immediately. Remove contact lenses and use lots of room temperature body of water. For children, pour water onto the bridge of the nuzzle and let it gently run into the eyes. Encourage blinking. After rinsing, check the network POISON CONTROL online tool for technical guidance, or call Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222 .
Mary Elizabeth May, RN, BA, MPH
Certified Specialist in Poison Information