Impregnating sprays and tattoo-removing agents
Consumers come into daily contact with chemicals at home or at work. If they do not have sufficient information about the risks linked to the substances and their use, accidents may occur. However, cases of severe intoxication are rare. Nevertheless, even minor risks have to be recognised in a timely manner so that the intoxication symptoms can be treated rapidly and effectively. Attending doctors in Germany are, therefore, obliged to inform the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) about any concrete suspicions of intoxications of this kind. The Institute has just published the data for 2007: 4,093 cases of intoxication were notified to BfR in the year under review. They include cases of workers who suffered disorders of the respiratory tract after opening fumigated transport containers, severe skin inflammation after using a tattoo-removing agent and other allergic reactions. The incorrect use of impregnating sprays has still been the cause of severe health damage. The brochure "Cases of Poisoning - Reported by Physicians 2007" gives an overview of all cases and comparative figures from the previous years.
Mandatory medical reporting of intoxication cases was introduced on 1 August 1990 pursuant to § 16e of the Chemicals Act. BfR collects and evaluates the notifications. Most of the 4,093 notifications received last year involved intoxications with chemical products, followed by intoxications with chemical parent substances. Intoxications caused by medicinal products, pesticides, cosmetics, food and other products accounted for fewer cases.
Almost all of the 4,093 notifications came from employers’ liability insurance associations, the others from clinics, doctors’ surgeries and poison information and treatment centres. Most of the intoxication cases involved accidents with chemicals or chemical products at the workplace. But accidents also happen in the home. Furthermore, there were notifications of intoxications of harbour workers who came into contact with fumigants from transport containers. The gases are used for pest control and high concentrations may trigger respiratory disorders in humans. The brochure mainly focuses on this subject. It also describes an allergic reaction to an anti-wrinkle cream or severe skin inflammation after the use of a tattoo-removing agent.
If chemicals are consumed by accident, the first aid advice given is often to drink large amounts of water. However, drinking large amounts of water can also prove dangerous as illustrated by the case of a patient who drank several litres of water after swallowing a descaling agent. The large amounts of water considerably disrupted the patient’s water and electrolyte metabolism and triggered severe convulsions.
Despite clear warnings, there are still cases of severe intoxication caused by the incorrect use of impregnating sprays. For instance, one woman suffered a pulmonary oedema after helping her husband to treat a marquee outdoors with an impregnating spray. Special care should be exercised in the case of these sprays. When using the spray outside, attention should also be paid to wind direction and wind velocity to avoid helpers or bystanders coming into contact with spray particles.
The brochure “Cases of Poisoning - Reported by Physicians 2007“ contains an overview of all the intoxications notified in 2007, a notification form for doctors and a list of the addresses of poison information and treatment centres. It is available free of charge in German and English and can be obtained by sending a letter, email or fax to BfR. It can also be downloaded from the Institute’s website www.bfr.bund. In the section “Publications/Brochures and Leaflets” you will also find all the annual reports since 1995.