Occupational hazard among veterinary workers: exposure to phosphine gas
April 28, 2012, 2:34 pm
Occupational Phosphine Gas Poisoning at Veterinary Hospitals from Dogs that Ingested Zinc Phosphide — Michigan, Iowa, and Washington, 2006—2011. MMWR 2012 April 27;61:286-288.
This article reports on the CDC National Institute for Occupational Health (NIOSH) investigation into cases of phosphine (PH3) poisoning among veterinary workers treating dogs who had swallowed zinc phosphide rodenticide. A poisoning case was defined as “two or more acute adverse health effects consistent with PH3 toxicity in a person exposed to PH3 generated from zinc phosphide”.
When zinc phosphide contacts stomach acid, phosphine gas is produced. Phosphine is a colorless flammable gas. It inhibits oxidative phosphorylation and can by toxic to the lungs, liver, kidney, heart, and nervous system. Although massive exposure can be fatal, victims who do not die recover completely.
There were eight human poisoning cases identified stemming from four separate incidents. All were classified as low severity exposures and all workers recovered. (All the dogs recovered also.) Symptoms included dyspnea, headache, nausea, abdominal pain, lightheadedness, and chest pain.
Many of the more pronounced symptoms occurred when treating veterinarians induced dogs to vomit or initiated gastric lavage in enclosed treatment areas. The authors recommend that “[v]eterinarians who induce vomiting in animals that have ingested zinc phosphide should do so outdoors”. By I wonder: with physicians and toxicologists no longer recommending induced emesis or (to a great extent) gastric lavage in cases of human ingestions, is there any evidence that such interventions improve outcomes in pets?