March 20, 1972

Polymer-Fume FeverAn Elusive Diagnosis

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Community Health and Preventive Medicine (Dr. Williams), Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia; and the Radio Corporation of America (Dr. Smith), Camden, NJ.

JAMA. 1972;219(12):1587-1589. doi:10.1001/jama.1972.03190380019006

Polymer-fume fever, which is characterized by a tight, gripping sensation in the chest associated with shivering, sore throat, pyrexia, and weakness, is rarely reported in the literature. It follows exposure to the pyrolysis products of polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) during heating or machining the polymer, or contamination of cigarettes and pipes. The patient described here suffered more than 40 attacks during a nine-month period, as a result of contamination of cigarettes. The cause of the fever was not recognized for a long time. Lassitude persisted for several months after the last episode, but no evidence has been found of any permanent ill effects. Polymer-fume fever should always be included in textbook lists of causes of fever of unknown origin.