Suicides, household chemicals, and cars

September 8, 2011, 11:47 pm


Chemical Suicides in Automobiles — Six States, 2006–2010. MMWR Sept 9, 2011;60:1189-1192.

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Several years ago, committing suicide using hydrogen sulfide — produced by mixing commonly available household chemicals — became a fad in Japan.  In less than 3 months during that year, there were reports of 220 cases of attempted suicides in Japan, with 208 deaths. The epidemic was attributed to recipes for producing lethal gases that appeared on the internet, media coverage, and copycat incidents.

This reports identified 10 incidents of chemical suicide attempts in enclosed automobiles in 15 states during the years 2006 – 2010. Nine victims died, and there were irritant gas injuries to 4 first responders. The “Editorial Note” accompanying this article makes the following points:

  • First responders must take appropriate precautions when at the site of a potential chemical suicide.
  • First responders should immediately contact a Hazmat team, and secure the site.
  • The toxic gases most commonly involved in chemical suicides are hydrogen sulfide and hydrogen cyanide.
  • Both victims and responders should be decontaminated at the scene of chemical suicide or attempted-suicide.
  • Vehicles transporting victims should be well-ventilated.

For a recent article on a similar topic, see Reedy SJD et al, Suicide Fads: Frequency and Characteristics of Hydrogen Sulfide Suicides in the United States. (West J Emerg Med July 2011;12:300-304).

Link: Chemical Assisted Suicide: Responder Information

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