Occasionally someone attempts suicide by inhaling a toxic chemical. It is important to protect people responding to the scene in order to prevent secondary injuries.


Recently people have committed suicide with toxic chemicals within their car or truck. It may also be attempted at home, at work or in a hotel room.


Findings at the scene that may indicate a toxic chemical exposure:

(1) mention in the suicide note

(2) taping around windows and doors to provide an air seal

(3) chemical container(s) or gas tanks

(4) unusual odors (absence of odor does not rule out a toxic chemical)

(5) unusual vapors or colors

(6) posted danger signs

(7) unexplained illness in people at the scene


Sources of chemical exposure:

(1) vaporization of chemical from the patient's skin or clothing

(2) outgassing from the victim (lungs, bowels)

(3) attempting mouth-to-mouth resuscitation

(4) area around the victim


Handling the scene:

(1) If a toxic exposure is expected, then people in HAZMAT containment suits should investigate the scene.

(2) First responders and bystanders should be as far away as possible and upwind from the scene.

(3) If the area is poorly ventilated then attempt to improve ventilation.

(4) Decontamination should be attempted at the scene if possible.

(5) If responders or bystanders show signs of illness, then it is important to identify the poison so that appropriate therapy can be given.


It is important that anyone coming into contact with the victim during or after removal of the body are aware of the hazards:

(1) ambulance drivers

(2) emergency room personnel

(3) morgue personnel

(4) morticians


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