Chemical Analysis.—Aspirin can be easily extracted with water. The aqueous
solution is shaken out with ether, and the ether extract is then evaporated. The residue
contains aspirin. If the residue is heated with sodium or potassium hydroxide or even
with water, aspirin is hydrolyzed into salicylic acid and acetic acid. A few drops of
dilute ferric chloride solution added to aspirin in neutral solution produce a yellow-
Medico-Legal Points.—Aspirin is commonly used as a household remedy for com-
mon cold and neuralgic or rheumatic pains, and has caused accidental poisoning when
taken in large doses. Idiosyncrasy has sometimes produced alarming symptoms even from
medicinal doses. Aspirin has been taken for suicidal purposes, especially in England
and other European countries. It has also been used as a homicidal poison. A woman,
45 years old, and her daughter, 20 years old, were charged with murdering the latter's
child, 7 months old, by administering aspirin in its feeding bottle.52
ACETIC ACID, CHaCOOH
This acid occurs in nature in combination with alcohols in the essences of many
plants, and is formed during the decay of certain organic substances. It is prepared on
a large scale from pyroligenous acid obtained in the distillation of wood. It is a clear,
colourless, acid liquid, having a pungent odour.
Acetic acid acts as a corrosive poison in the concentrated form, known as glacial
acetic acid, but acts merely as an irritant poison when diluted. Vinegar (Sirka), which
contains four to five per cent of acetic acid may cause poisonous symptoms when taken
in large quantities. Vinegar and acetic acid contain traces of sulphuric acid as an
impurity. Acidum aceticum dilutum is a pharmacopceial preparation containing 6 per
cent of acetic acid.
Fig. 166.—Acetic Acid Poisoning: Stains on the lips
and tongue caused by glacial acetic acid.
Symptoms.—The mucous membrane of the mouth and other parts of the body, with
which the acid comes in contact, are softened and present the appearance of a yellowish-
white colour. There is intense pain extending from the mouth to the stomach. The
other symptoms are vomiting, difficulty in swallowing, convulsions, irritable cough and
52. PTwtrm. Jour., March 3, 1945, p. 120.