Anti-rust product poisoning
Anti-rust product poisoning occurs when someone breathes in or swallows anti-rust products. These products may be accidentally breathed in (inhaled) if they are used in a small, poorly ventilated area, such as a garage.
This article is for information only. DO NOT use it to treat or manage an actual poison exposure. If you or someone you are with has an exposure, call the local emergency number (such as 911), or the local poison control center can be reached directly by calling the national toll-free Poison Help hotline (1-800-222-1222) from anywhere in the United States.
Anti-rust agents contain different poisonous substances, including:
- Chelating agents
- Hydrochloric acid
- Oxalic acid
- Phosphoric acid
Various anti-rust products
Anti-rust product poisoning can cause symptoms in many parts of the body.
EYES, EARS, NOSE, AND THROAT
- Loss of vision
- Severe pain in the throat
- Severe pain or burning in the nose, eyes, ears, lips, or tongue
HEART AND BLOOD
- Low blood pressure
- Methemoglobinemia (very dark blood from abnormal red blood cells)
- Too much or too little acid in the blood, which leads to damage in all of the body organs
Many of the most dangerous effects of poisoning from anti-rust products come from inhaling the substance.
LUNGS AND AIRWAYS
- Breathing difficulty
- Throat swelling (may also cause breathing difficulty)
- Chemical pneumonitis
- Secondary bacterial or viral infection
- Hemorrhagic pulmonary edema
- Respiratory distress or failure
- Pleural effusion
- Blurred vision
- Brain damage from low oxygen level
- Holes (necrosis) in the skin or tissues underneath
Seek medical help right away. Do not make a person throw up unless told to do so by the poison control center or a health care professional.
If the chemical was swallowed, immediately give the person water or milk, unless instructed otherwise by a health care provider. Do not give water or milk if the person is having symptoms (such as vomiting, convulsions, or a decreased level of alertness) that make it hard to swallow.
If the person breathed in the poison, immediately move the person to fresh air.
Before Calling Emergency
Get the following information:
- Person's age, weight, and condition
- Name of the product (ingredients and strength, if known)
- Time it was swallowed
- Amount swallowed
Your local poison control center can be reached directly by calling the national toll-free Poison Help hotline (1-800-222-1222) from anywhere in the United States. This national hotline 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.
What to Expect at the Emergency Room
The 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:
- Breathing support, including a tube through the mouth and into the lungs, connected to a breathing machine (ventilator)
- Bronchoscopy -- a small camera down the throat to see burns in the airways and lungs
- Chest x-ray
- ECG (electrocardiogram or heart tracing)
- Endoscopy -- a small camera down the throat to see burns in the esophagus and the stomach
- Fluids through the vein (by IV)
- Methylene blue -- a medicine to reverse the effect of the poison
- 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
How well a person does depends on the amount of poison swallowed and how quickly treatment is received. The faster the person gets medical help, the better the chance for recovery.
Swallowing such poisons can have severe effects on many parts of the body. Damage continues to occur to the kidneys, liver, esophagus, and stomach for several weeks after the substance was swallowed. The outcome depends on this damage.
Kuschner WG, Blanc PD. Acute responses to toxic exposures. In: Broaddus VC, Ernst JD, King TE, et al, eds. Murray & Nadel's Textbook of Respiratory Medicine. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2022:chap 103.
Hoyte C. Caustics. In: Walls RM, Hockberger RS, Gausche-Hill M, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 148.
Tibballs J. Paediatric poisoning and envenomation. In: Bersten AD, Handy JM, eds. Oh's Intensive Care Manual. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 114.
Review Date: 11/13/2021
Reviewed By: Jesse Borke, MD, CPE, FAAEM, FACEP, Attending Physician at Kaiser Permanente, Orange County, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.