Some science behind the scenes
My mate keeps drinking brake fluid. He says he's not addicted because he can stop whenever he wants.
Gasoline or petrol is a toxic translucent, petroleum-derived liquid that is primarily used as a fuel in internal combustion engines. It consists mostly of organic compounds obtained by the fractional distillation of petroleum, enhanced with a variety of additives. The bulk of typical gasoline consists of hydrocarbons, but the actual contents can vary enormously between refinery streams which blend the gasoline according to the final market. Just some of the additives and ingredients include:
- naphthenes (cycloalkanes)
- paraffins (alkanes),
- olefins (alkenes)
- organic ethers (deliberately added)
- “small levels of contaminants”, in particular organosulfur compounds
- aromatic hydrocarbons
- alcohol (usually ethanol or methanol) – see below.
- Tetraethyl lead – although generally not added these days, fuel containing lead may continue to be sold for off-road uses, including aircraft, racing cars, farm equipment, and marine engines
- Methylcyclopentadienyl manganese tricarbonyl (MMT) has been used for many years in Canada and recently in Australia to boost octane. It also helps old cars designed for leaded fuel run on unleaded fuel without need for additives to prevent valve problems. MMT is suspected to be a powerful neurotoxin and respiratory toxin
- Substituted phenols and derivatives of phenylenediamine are common antioxidants used to inhibit gum formation in gasoline (petrol).
- metal deactivators which are compounds that sequester (deactivate) metal salts that otherwise accelerate the formation of gummy residues.
- Dye - In Australia, petrol tends to be dyed a light shade of purple. In the United States, the most commonly used aircraft gasoline is dyed blue. Red dye has been used for identifying untaxed (off highway use) agricultural diesel. The UK uses red dye to differentiate between regular diesel fuel, which is undyed, and diesel intended for agricultural and construction vehicles like excavators and bulldozers.
- Detergents - additives to reduce internal engine carbon buildups, improve combustion, and to allow easier starting in cold climates. Typical detergents include alkylamines and alkyl phosphates at the level of 50-100 ppm.
- Ethanol - It is possible that some of the effects from huffing gasoline are obtained from the Ethanol – in other words the alcohol content In the EU, 5% ethanol can be added within the common gasoline spec (EN 228). Discussions are ongoing to allow 10% blending of ethanol (available in French gas stations). Most gasoline sold in Sweden has 5-15% ethanol added, also sold is gasoline blended with ethanol, 85% ethanol . In Brazil, gasoline for automobile has from 18 to 25% of ethanol added to its composition In Australia, legislation limits ethanol use to 10% of gasoline. In the United States most fuel pumps display a sticker stating the fuel may contain up to 10% ethanol, an intentional disparity which allows the minimum level to be raised over time without requiring modification of the literature/labelling. In parts of the United States, ethanol is sometimes added to gasoline without an indication that it is a component in some states.
- oxygen-bearing compounds such as MTBE, ETBE and ethanol. The presence of these oxygenates reduces the amount of carbon monoxide and unburned fuel in the exhaust gas.
In effect, anyone sniffing or huffing gasoline can be inhaling a combination of all these [toxic] substances!
Gasoline inhalation effects
Inhalation of gasoline leads to permanent injury and death. The ethanol [alcohol] added may result in some inebriation, the endorphins triggered by the body reacting to likely death from the toxins or hypoxia may give you a sort of odd high, but none of this is remotely spiritual. The risks include
- Hypoxia - can occur due to inhaling fumes from a plastic bag, or from using proper equipment but not adding oxygen or room air.
- Burns – many of these products are volatile and can catch fire or explode, especially when combined with smoking.
- Incidental injury - users may also injure themselves due to loss of coordination or impaired judgment, especially if they attempt to drive.
- Cardiac failure or arrest
- Vomiting and nausea – which due to the sedated state can lead to aspiration of vomit
- Hearing loss
- Limb spasms and seizures
- Damage to the central nervous system – toluene in particular can damage myelin fibres
- Brain damage -brain damage is typically seen with chronic long-term use as opposed to short-term exposure
- Liver and kidney damage
- Death - death is generally caused by a very high concentration of fumes. Deliberately inhaling from an attached paper or plastic bag or in a closed area greatly increases the chances of suffocation. Death occurs most commonly from aspiration of vomit while unconscious or from a combination of respiratory depression and hypoxia. Deaths typically occur from complications related to excessive sedation and vomiting.
Some of the problems used to be the lead in the petrol, thus in theory some of the problems ought to have been removed once lead was removed, but in practise, so many other additives with equally dangerous toxic effects are present that the removal of the lead has had little effect - the brain damage and organ damage is still a reality. The following scientific studies all provide evidence of this.
The cases studies – observations - also provide additional information.
Neurological and cognitive impairment associated with leaded gasoline encephalopathy - Cairney S, Maruff P, Burns CB, Currie J, Currie BJ; The Neuropsychology Laboratory, Mental Health Research Institute of Victoria, Parkville, Vic. 3052, Australia.
A toxic encephalopathy (or 'lead encephalopathy') may arise from leaded gasoline abuse that is characterised by tremor, hallucinations, nystagmus, ataxia, seizures and death. This syndrome requires emergency and intensive hospital treatment.
We compared neurological and cognitive function between chronic gasoline abusers with (n=15) and without (n=15) a history of leaded gasoline encephalopathy, and with controls who had never abused gasoline (n=15).
Both groups of chronic gasoline abusers had abused gasoline for the same length of time and compared to controls, showed equivalently elevated blood lead levels and cognitive abnormalities in the areas of visuo-spatial attention, recognition memory and paired associate learning. However, where gasoline abusers with no history of leaded gasoline encephalopathy showed only mild movement abnormalities, gasoline abusers with a history of leaded gasoline encephalopathy showed severe neurological impairment that manifest as higher rates of gait ataxia, abnormal rapid finger tapping, finger to nose movements, dysdiadochokinesia and heel to knee movements, increased deep tendon reflexes and presence of a palmomental reflex.
While neurological and cognitive functions are disrupted by chronic gasoline abuse, leaded gasoline encephalopathy is associated with additional and long-lasting damage to cortical and cerebellar functions.
Furthermore, if you don’t die you can so mess up your mind that you don’t know what you are doing or become violent, dangerous and even permanently psychotic.
Volatile substance abuse and crime: data from U.K. press cuttings 1996-2007 - Flanagan RJ, Fisher DS. Toxicology Unit, Clinical Biochemistry, Bessemer Wing, King's College Hospital, Denmark Hill, London SE5 9RS.
Volatile substance abuse (VSA, solvent abuse, 'glue sniffing'), carries a risk of sudden death (some 700 deaths in the UK, 1996-2006). However, mortality data take no account of the social cost of the habit.
From press cuttings we have identified 508 instances (569 individuals: 507 male, median age 25 yr, range 8-51 yr and 62 female, median age 18 yr, range 11-36 yr) where VSA, either alone or together with alcohol/other drugs, was reported in association with criminal or antisocial behaviour that resulted in a criminal conviction or caution. The frequency of reports decreased from 84 per annum (1997 and 1998) to 20 (2007). The agents reported (17 individuals, two agents) were
- 'glue' (225)
- LPG/'butane'/aerosol propellants (176)
- 'solvents' (158),
- and petrol (gasoline) (27).
The offences cited (most serious crime) were:
- homicide (35),
- rape or other sexual assault (34),
- arson (25),
- assault or serious threat of assault (192),
- child neglect/cruelty (6),
- attempting to pervert the course of justice (2),
- criminal damage (41),
- burglary/robbery/theft/shoplifting (100),
- nuisance/ breach of the peace/breach of antisocial behaviour order (104),
- driving whilst impaired and other vehicle-related offence (22),
- and supply (non-retail) (8).
Thirty offenders were given life sentences or detained indefinitely under mental health legislation. Reports came from all parts of the UK, although most were from Northern England, Northern Ireland, and Scotland.
There were many reports of recidivists; one 34-year-old male had made 113 court appearances, and had spent approximately nine years in custody. Although there are severe limitations to data derived from press cuttings and notwithstanding that in some cases VSA may have been raised in mitigation, these data provide an additional insight into the problem posed by VSA in the U.K.