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May 26, 1969

The Dangers of "Safe" Solvents

JAMA. 1969;208(8):1484. doi:10.1001/jama.1969.03160080148027

Solvents commonly used in industry for degreasing or cleaning of metals are increasingly being used by the public in hobbies or as spot, paint, or grease removers. The clinician is often asked to determine whether the diagnostic signs and symptoms in his patient are due to overexposure to such solvents. In this issue (p 1490) Stewart describes an acute intoxication due to exposure to the degreasing solvent, tetrachloroethylene, commonly called perchloroethylene. This solvent also is used in coin-operated dry-cleaning machines and as a constituent of numerous tradename home products. Industrial experience indicates that perchloroethylene does not constitute an appreciable hazard when used with prescribed precautions. When such precautions are not followed, excessive exposure may result in acute or chronic intoxication.

Two reports of deaths from asphyxia due to overexposure to such chlorinated hydrocarbon—methylene chloride in one case and methyl chloroform in the other—have been reported to the AMA Committee on