Risk of Aspiration Carried by Colourless Liquids for Grill Lightning and other Petroleum Destillates/Paraffine

Hahn,A.; Begemann,K.; Gessner,M.; Meyer,H.; Burger,R.; Preußner,K.

Objectives: Due to their physicochemical properties low-viscosity paraffinic hydrocarbons, like fuels containing paraffins and petroleum distillates may enter the lungs in ingestions and can cause severe chemical pneumonia. Even very low quantities, often only a little sip, may result in aspiration and severe health damage. In Germany, already five deaths in infants and young children have been recorded since 1990, two of them with colourless liquids. In Germany, the use of such petroleum distillates in coloured and/or scented lamp oils sold to the private end consumer has been banned since 1 January 1999 and in the EU, since 1 July 2000. However, the use of such low-viscosity paraffins is still permitted in colourless liquids such as those used in grill lighting aids, in colourless lamp oils etc. Again and again, severe health impairment has resulted from their ingestion. Observations made by different parties have indicated that the unbanned uncolored and unscented products containing paraffins/petroleum distillates, are more aggressively advertised and sold, with increasing market shares, by wholesalers and retailers. Assessments: During the period between 1 January 1999 and 31 December 2005, the BfR Documentation Centre for Poisonings (BfRDocCentre) received reports on 66 cases involving grill lighting aids, 104 cases involving colourless lamp oils and 28 other cases with kerosene and fire-breathing liquids. Pneumonia was developed in 38% of cases caused by grill lighting aids and in 45% of cases caused by colourless lamp oils. Chemical pneumonia also resulted from the aspiration of pure kerosene and with a very high frequency for liquids for firebreathing (see table). As in the past, the BfR continues to strongly advocate that the ban on the selling of colored and/or scented lamp oils containing low-viscosity paraffinic hydrocarbons to the private end consumer be extended to other products such as grill lighting aids and colorless and unscented lamp oils. Based on the BfRDocCentre data and extrapolations of the German Poison Centre inquiries between 1 January 1999 and 31 December 2005, these colorless liquid products could be involved in more than 1,300 aspiration cases in Germany. Cost assessments of the financial burden caused through physician consultations, hospital admittance, diagnostic and therapeutic costs, and rehabilitation measures, will exceed the level of 10 Million Euros in this period of 6 years. Results and Activities: Based on BfRDocCentre reports the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety has again taken up the problem. Thus, the German Federal Minister for the Environment has demanded more stringent regulations for the marketing of such chemicals on the EU level.

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Hahn,A. / Begemann,K. / Gessner,M. / et al: Risk of Aspiration Carried by Colourless Liquids for Grill Lightning and other Petroleum Destillates/Paraffine. 2007.

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