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Swedish forensic data 1992-2009 suggest hydrogen cyanide as an important cause of death in fire victims
Karolinska Institute.
National Board for Forensic Medicine.
Karolinska Institute.
Linköping University, Department of Medical and Health Sciences, Clinical Pharmacology. Linköping University, Faculty of Health Sciences.
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2012 (English)In: Inhalation Toxicology, ISSN 0895-8378, E-ISSN 1091-7691, Vol. 24, no 3, 194-199 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Between 60 and 80% of all deaths related to fire are attributed to toxic fumes. Carbon monoxide (CO) is commonly thought to be the major cause. However, hydrogen cyanide (HCN) is also formed. Still, the exact contribution of HCN to fire-related fatalities is unknown. The aim of the study was to investigate the impact of HCN in relation to CO as a cause of death in fire victims. Data on carboxyhemoglobin (COHb) and blood cyanide from deceased fire victims in the period 1992-2009 were collected from two Swedish nationwide forensic databases (ToxBase and RattsBase). The databases contain data on COHb and/or cyanide from 2303 fire victims, whereof 816 on both COHb and cyanide. Nonparametric statistical tests were used. Seventeen percent of the victims had lethal or life-threatening blood cyanide levels (andgt;1 mu g/g) and 32% had lethal COHb levels (andgt;50% COHb). Over 31% had cyanide levels above 0.5 mu g/g, an indication of significant HCN exposure. The percentages may be underestimates, as cyanide is quickly eliminated in blood also after death. Our results support the notion that HCN contributes more to the cause of death among fire victims than previously thought.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Informa Healthcare , 2012. Vol. 24, no 3, 194-199 p.
Keyword [en]
Carbon monoxide, carboxyhemoglobin, HCN, cyanide, fires
National Category
Medical and Health Sciences
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-76027DOI: 10.3109/08958378.2012.660285ISI: 000300787300006OAI: diva2:512816
Funding Agencies|Angpanneforeningens Foundation for Research and Development (AForsk)||Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare||Swedish Council for Working Life and Social Research||Available from: 2012-03-29 Created: 2012-03-23 Last updated: 2012-03-29

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Ahlner, Johan
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