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Fatal Poisoning by Gasoline

NCJ Number
Problems of Forensic Sciences Volume: 70 Dated: 2007 Pages: 198-205
Artur Tezyk; Roman Wachowiak; Rudolf Durys
Date Published
8 pages
This paper reports on the forensic analysis of a case in Poland that was determined to be fatal poisoning by lead-free gasoline.
The corpse of a 53-year-old man was found dressed in gasoline-soaked clothes in the service pit of a garage. The autopsy revealed his significant inhalation of lead-free gasoline as well as transdermal resorption, such that gasoline poisoning was determined to be the cause of death, with the possible contribution of ethyl alcohol. The latter content was confirmed in supplementary studies (blood: 1.7 percent, urine: 1.94 percent). The autopsy identified several traces of second-degree chemical burns. Chemical analysis was conducted on blood, urine, and gastric content, as well as tissues of liver, brain, and abdominal walls. These materials were subjected to extraction with ethyl ether, and the estimation of reference components of gasoline was performed by gas chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry using a DB-1 column. Quantitative analysis of gasoline in blood and tissues was based on suggestions by M.A. Martinez, making use of calibration (1 to 100 mg/ml) of reference gasoline component (m,p-xylene) and an internal standard (n-octanobenzene). The presence of hydrocarbons was detected in blood and tissues, but not in urine, pointing to a significant inhalation of gasoline and transdermal resorption. Lead-free gasoline is a complex mixture of aromatic and aliphatic hydrocarbons, alcohols, ethers, and other oxygen-containing aromatic heterocyclic hydrocarbons. The toxic effect of the set of compounds contained in petrol products is multidirectional and includes irritation of the skin and mucous membranes, as well as dysfunction of vitally important systems, including the respiratory system, nervous system (depressive action ), and circulatory system (arrythmogenic action). 3 tables, 1 figure, and 8 references