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.CARBOLIC ACID 469
annual report for the year 1939, the Chemical Analyser, Bombay, mentions
a case in which some solution containing oxalic acid was poured on. the head
of a woman with a result that it caused falling out of her hair in two big
patches. There was no hyper semia, or any sign of irritation on the skin,
over the patches, but it was stained lightly black.
Oxalic acid is very rarely administered internally as an abortifacient.
In his annual report for the year 1950, the Chemical Examiner, Bengal,
mentions a case from Barrackpur (24-Paragnas) , where a Hindu woman,
30 years old, died from the effects of oxalic acid which was given to her as
Oxalic acid is eliminated chiefly by the kidneys.
When applied externally, oxalic acid does not produce corrosion of the
skin, nor does it produce any deleterious effects on the system. Workmen
engaged in trades requiring the constant handling of the acid are not known
to have suffered from ill-health except that their fingernails are white,
opaque and brittle, but they may, in rare cases, suffer from the symptoms of
chronic poisoning, especially when exposed to its vapour.
A man,26 aged 53, was employed in America in cleansing radiators "by means of
boiling them over a fire with a strong solution of oxalic acid. During the operation, he
scooped crystals of the acid with his fingers into the radiator filler. As the boiling
progressed the concentration increased and vapour was emitted which was extremely
irritating to breathe. In due course the man was compelled to leave his work and later
became disabled and confined to bed. The initial symptoms consisted in epistaxis, severe
headaches, spells of vomiting, constant pain in the back and rapid loss of weight.
Extreme nervousness developed and the man stated that he was scarcely able to move,
as he seemed to be paralysed. An ulcer was noticed on the nasal septum with marked
congestion of the mucous membranes of both nostrils and down the back of the throat.
Anaemia and severe albuminuria were present.
Binoxalate (Acid oxalate) of Potassium, KHC2O4, 2H2O. — This is com-
mercially known as " salts of sorrel " or " essential salts of lemon ", and is
used for the same purpose as oxalic acid. It is acid in reaction and sour in
taste, and dissolves in 40 parts of cold, and in 6 parts of boiling water. It is
likely to be mistaken for acid tartrate of potassium (cream of tartar) , and
may cause accidental poisoning. It is also taken for suicidal purposes.
This salt is practically as poisonous as oxalic acid, producing similar
symptoms and post-mortem appearances, and requiring similar treatment.
Four drachms may be regarded as a fatal dose.
A woman,27 aged 24 years, swallowed three-quarters of an ounce of
binoxalate of potassium, and died in twenty-five minutes. On post-mortem
examination white corrosions were seen on the left corner of the mouth, on
the tongue and on the inside of the cheeks. The stomach showed at the
cardiac end two circular perforations about 1J inches apart. The stomach
wall was found to be extremely thin and quite denuded of the mucous
membrane for a radius of several inches.
CARBOLIC ACID (PHENOL, PHENYL ALCOHOL OR PHENIC ACID),
This is hydroxybenzene obtained from coal tar oil by fractional distilla-
tion, and is commonly prepared from acetylene by synthesis.
Pure carbolic acid occurs as short, colourless, prismatic, needle-shaped
crystals or crystalline masses, which turn pink on exposure to light, and are
deliquescent in moist air. It has no acid reaction but forms carbolates when
acted upon by strong bases. It has a characteristic odour and has a sweetisiy
26. C. D. Howard, Jour. lueL Hyg,, 1932, XIV^^). ,283-290 ; JfeL-Leg. and
cat Review, Apr. 1933, p. 145.
27. Braithwaite, Brit. Med. Jour^ VoL I, 1905/p.'183.