The diagnosis of solvent poisoning or exposure can be rapidly established by breath analysis. The analytical methods employed specifically identify the solvent and are sufficiently sensitive to permit detection hours to weeks after exposure, depending upon the amount of solvent absorbed, its rate of metabolism, and its rate of excretion. Serial breath analyses after a solvent exposure allow the construction of an excretion curve which can then be compared to the excretion curves of humans previously exposed to known amounts of a given solvent. In this manner the total body burden or total amount absorbed may be estimated. Based upon the identity of the toxic agent and the amount present within the body, a reasonable prognosis can be advanced and appropriate therapy begun. The breath samples are collected in saran gas bags or glass pipettes and analyzed directly for their solvent content in a long path-length gas cell of an infrared spectrometer or in a vapor phase chromatograph.
Stewart RD, Dodd HC, Erley DS, Holder BB. Diagnosis of Solvent Poisoning. JAMA. 1965;193(13):1097–1100. doi:10.1001/jama.1965.03090130025005
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