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Solder poisoning

Definition

Solder is used to connect electric wires or other metal parts together. Solder poisoning occurs when someone swallows solder in large amounts. It can also cause burns to the skin.

This is for information only and not for use in the treatment or management of an actual poison exposure. If you have an exposure, you should call your local emergency number (such as 911) or the National Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.

Poisonous Ingredient

  • Antimony
  • Bismuth
  • Cadmium
  • Copper
  • Ethylene glycol
  • Lead
  • Mild acids
  • Silver
  • Tin
  • Zinc

Where Found

  • Solder

Note: This list may not include all sources of solder.

Symptoms

Symptoms for lead:

Symptoms for tin and zinc chloride:

  • Bladder and kidneys
    • Decreased urine output
    • No urine output
  • Eyes, ears, nose, mouth, and throat
    • Burns in mouth and throat
    • Yellow eyes (jaundice)
  • Gastrointestinal
    • Diarrhea
    • Vomiting
  • Skin
    • Yellow skin

Symptoms for ethylene glycol:

  • Disturbance in the acid balance of the blood (can lead to failure of many organs)
  • Kidney failure

Symptoms for cadmium:

  • Kidney damage
  • Reduced brain function or intelligence
  • Reduced lung function
  • Softening of the bones and kidney failure (itai-itai disease)

Symptoms for bismuth:

  • Diarrhea
  • Eye irritation
  • Gingivitis
  • Kidney damage
  • Metallic taste
  • Skin irritation

Symptoms for silver:

  • Greyish-black staining of the skin and mucus membranes (argyria)
  • Silver deposits in the eyes (argyrosis)

Symptoms for antimony:

  • Chemical burns
  • Depression
  • Dizziness
  • Eczema
  • Headache
  • Irritation of mucous membranes
  • Stomach problems

Symptoms for copper:

  • Fever

Home Treatment

Seek immediate medical help. Do NOT make a person throw up unless told to do so by poison control or a health care professional.

If the chemical is on the skin or in the eyes, flush with lots of water for at least 15 minutes.

If the chemical was swallowed, immediately give the person water, unless instructed otherwise by a health care provider. Do NOT give water if the patient is having symptoms (such as vomiting, convulsions, or a decreased level of alertness) that make it hard to swallow.

Before Calling Emergency

Determine the following information:

  • Patient's age, weight, and condition
  • Name of the product (ingredients and strengths, if known)
  • Time it was swallowed
  • Amount swallowed

Poison Control, or a local emergency number

The National Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222) can be called from anywhere in the United States. This national hotline number will let you talk to experts in poisoning. They will give you further instructions.

This is a free and confidential service. All local poison control centers in the United States use this national number. You should call if you have any questions about poisoning or poison prevention. It does NOT need to be an emergency. You can call for any reason, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

See: Poison control center - emergency number

What to expect at the emergency room

The health care provider will measure and monitor your vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure. Symptoms will be treated as appropriate. You may receive:

  • Activated charcoal
  • Breathing tube
  • Bronchoscopy -- camera down the throat to see burns in the airways and lungs
  • Dialysis
  • Endoscopy -- camera down the throat to see burns in the esophagus and the stomach
  • Fluids by IV
  • Medicine (antidote) to reverse the effect of the poison
  • Oxygen
  • Surgical removal of burned skin (skin debridement)
  • Tube through the mouth into the stomach to wash out the stomach (gastric lavage)
  • Washing of the skin (irrigation) -- perhaps every few hours for several days

Expectations (prognosis)

How well you do depends on the amount of poison swallowed and how quickly treatment is received. The faster you get medical help, the better the chance for recovery.

Outcomes depend on the type of poison swallowed:

  • Ethylene glycol is extremely poisonous.
  • Complete recovery from lead poisoning takes a year or more. It may cause permanent brain damage.
  • If the amount of zinc or tin swallowed is low, recovery should occur within approximately 6 hours.
  • Skin color changes due to silver poisoning are permanent.
  • Long-term poisoning with antimony and cadmium may lead to lung cancer.
  • Recovery from acid poisoning depends on how much tissue has been damaged.

References

Jacobsen D, Hovda KE. Methanol, ethylene glycol, and other toxic alcohols. In: Shannon MW, Borron SW, Burns MJ, eds. Haddad and Winchester's Clinical Management of Poisoning and Drug Overdose. 4th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 32.

Hall AH, Shannon MW. Other heavy metals. In: Shannon MW, Borron SW, Burns MJ, eds. Haddad and Winchester's Clinical Management of Poisoning and Drug Overdose. 4th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 75.


Review Date: 2/28/2012
Reviewed By: Eric Perez, MD, St. Luke's / Roosevelt Hospital Center, NY, NY, and Pegasus Emergency Group (Meadowlands and Hunterdon Medical Centers), NJ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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