Herein, we present a rare case of suicidal intoxication with carbon monoxide produced via reaction of formic and sulphuric acid with additional toxic effect of formic acid. The deceased was a 22-year-old men found dead in the bathroom locked from the inside. A bucket filled with liquid was found next to him, together with an almost empty canister labeled “formic acid” and another empty unlabeled canister. The postmortem examination revealed corrosive burns of the face, neck and chest, cherry-pink livor mortis, corrosive injury to the oropharyngeal area and trachea, subpleural petechiae, 100 mL of blood in stomach and superficial erosions of stomach mucosa. Toxicology analysis revealed 30 % of carboxyhemoglobin in the femoral blood and the presence of the formic acid in various samples. Quantitative analysis of formic acid was performed by measuring methyl ester derivative of formic acid by using headspace gas chromatography with flame ionization detection. The highest concentration of formic acid was measured in the lungs (0.55 g/kg), gastric content (0.39 g/L), and blood (0.28 g/L). In addition, it was established that content of the unlabeled canister had a pH value of 0.79 and contained sulphuric ions. Morphological and toxicology findings suggested that the main route of exposure to formic acid was inhalation of vapors with a possible ingestion of only small amount of liquid acid. The cause of death was determined to be combined intoxication with carbon monoxide and formic acid.
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Bakovic, M., Nestic, M. & Mayer, D. Suicidal chemistry: combined intoxication with carbon monoxide and formic acid. Int J Legal Med 130, 723–729 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00414-015-1208-0
- Carbon monoxide
- Formic acid
- Corrosive injuries