May 16, 1986

Sniffing Gasoline

Author Affiliations

Kings County Hospital Brooklyn, NY

JAMA. 1986;255(19):2604-2605. doi:10.1001/jama.1986.03370190088025

To the Editor.—  Greer and Giovacchini1 note that sniffing abuse of gasoline, a complex mixture of hydrocarbons, may result in death. Their letter and the accompanying reply raise the question concerning cause and manner of death associated with gasoline sniffing. In 1970, as part of a nationwide survey on sniffing death in children,2 I located four cases of sudden death associated with inhalation abuse of gasoline.3 Each of the sudden sniffing deaths was associated with physical activity or a stressful situation. For example, one sudden death occurred when a youth who was caught sniffing gasoline suddenly ran from police during questioning and fell dead on the street several hundred feet away. Autopsy revealed no anatomic cause of death.Sudden death may occur following gasoline sniffing and blunt trauma to the chest such as a fist punch but without evidence of injury to the heart or other internal