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METHYL  CHLORIDE                                                    635

abdominal pain, fixed and dilated pupils, visual disturbances followed by partial or total
blindness due to optic neuritis, dyspnoea, cyanosis, delirium, convulsions, intense and
persistent coma and death.

Fatal Dose.—This varies according to the susceptibility of individuals. One to two
ounces have proved fatal.12 Death has occurred from three, four and five ounces,15 and
often from six to eight ounces, but recovery has followed larger doses. Half-an-ounce 14
has caused blindness, although a much larger quantity has not produced any injury to
the eyes.

Fatal Period.—Death may occur from twenty-four to thirty-six hours, or may be
delayed for three or four days. In several cases death occurred between six and twenty
hours and in one case it occurred in one hour.15

Treatment.—The stomach should be washed out with warm water. Hypodermic
injections of camphor, caffeine and strychnine should be given. Morphine may be given
hypodermically to relieve pain. Sodium bicarbonate may be given by mouth or intra-
venously. Intravenous injection of normal saline may be used to promote its elimina-
tion ; also one-sixth molar sodium lactate solution (Uni-Sodilact) given intravenously
is helpful. Eyes should be kept covered to protect them from light.

Postmortem Appearances.—The mucous membrane of the stomach and duodenum
is hypersemic and inflamed with small hemorrhages. The lungs are congested and
cedematous. The brain and its meninges are congested. The mucosa of the bladder is
often found congested.

Chemical Tests.—Two cubic centimetres of a mixture containing 3 g. of potassium
permanganate and 15 cc. of syrup phosphoric acid per 100 cc, of water are added to 5 cc.
of the .distillate, and the mixture is allowed to stand for ten minutes, then 2 cc. of a 5
per cent solution of oxalic acid in 50 per cent sulphuric acid are added to the mixture
to decolourize it. Five cubic centimetres of Schiffs reagent are now added to the colour-
less solution, and the mixture is again allowed to stand for ten minutes. A pink colour
will develdp, if methyl alcohol is present.

Schiflr's reagent is prepared as follows : —

Dissolve 0.2 g. of basic fuchsine in 120 cc. of hot distilled water. Allow the solution
to cool, and add 2 g. of anhydrous sodium sulphite dissolved in 20 cc, of distilled water,
and then add 2 cc. of concentrated hydrochloric acid. Dilute the solution, with water,
make it up to 200 cc. and allow the solution to stand for one hour before it is used,

Medico-Legal Points.—Poisoning by methyl alcohol is mostly accidental, as it is
used by some individuals as an intoxicating beverage, especially when they cannot get
ordinary alcohol. Poisoning has also occurred from the inhalation of its vapours or from
its application to the skin.

Methyl alcohol produces drunkenness less readily than ethyl alcohol, but its
poisonous effects last longer, as it is oxidized much more slowly and remains in the
body for a longer period. It is believed that simultaneous or subsequent consumption
of ethyl alcohol decreases the toxicity of methyl alcohol by displacing it from the body

Methyl alcohol is eliminated by the breath, but a large portion of it is slowly
oxidized into formaldehyde and formic acid, and the latter is excreted in the urine, the
excretion lasting for six to eight days.


This is obtained by the action of chlorine on methane or by adding methyl alcohol
to phosphorus pentachloride. It is a colourless gas, having a sweet ethereal odour and
burning with a green-bordered flame, It is slightly soluble in water, but more easily
in alcohol. It is condensed into a liquid form and is supplied in cylinders. When used
as a spray, methyl chloride acts as a local anaesthetic through the freezing effect produced
by its rapid evaporation.

As a gas, methyl chloride is non-irritating to the nostrils and lungs and is non-
injurious to foods, furs and textiles. It is extensively used as a methylating agent in
the manufacture of dyes and as a refrigerant,

Symptoms,—These are headache, nausea, abdominal pain, vomiting, mental con-
fusion, weakness, giddiness, disturbances of vision and increased tendency to sleep.
These are followed by cyanosis, stupor and coma. Occasionally there are delirium,
restlessness and clonic and tonic convulsions with a rise of temperature and anuria.

12.    Swadener, Jour. Amen IWed, Assoc., 1913, 60, p. 1479,

13.   Ring, Trans. Amer. Ophth. Soc,t 1902, 8, p. 529.

14.   Raub. Oplithalm. Record, 1899, 8, p. 169.

,15.   Peterson, Haines and Webster, Leg. Med. and Toxic., Vol. II, Ed. It, p. 609.           >