Tar remover poisoning
Tar remover is a chemical product used to get rid of tar, a dark oily material. This article discusses the health problems that may occur if you breathe in or touch tar remover.
This is for information only and not for use in the treatment or management of an actual poison exposure. If you have an exposure, you should call your local emergency number (such as 911) or the National Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.
Tar remover contains organic compounds called hydrocarbons. They include:
Light aromatic naphtha
Various tar removal products
- Airways and lungs
- Breathing difficulty
- Throat swelling
- Eyes, ears, nose, and throat
- Severe pain or burning in the throat, nose, eyes, ears, lips, or tongue
- Vision loss
- Heart and blood
- Low blood pressure
- Intestinal tract
- Abdominal pain - severe
- Blood in the stools
- Burns of the esophagus (food pipe)
- Vomiting (may be bloody)
- Nervous system
- Feeling of being drunk (euphoria)
- Loss of alertness (unconsciousness)
- Necrosis (holes) in the skin or underlying tissues
Do NOT make a person throw up unless told to do so by poison control or a health care professional. Seek immediate medical help.
If the chemical was swallowed, immediately give the person water or milk, unless instructed otherwise by a health care provider. Do NOT give water or milk if the patient is having symptoms (such as vomiting, convulsions, or a decreased level of alertness) that make it hard to swallow.
If the person breathed in the poison, immediately move him or her to fresh air.
Before Calling Emergency
Determine the following information:
- The patient's age, weight, and condition
- The name of the product (as well as the ingredients and strength, if known)
- The time it was swallowed
- The amount swallowed
Poison Control, or a local emergency number
The National Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222) can be called from anywhere in the United States. This national hotline number will let you talk to experts in poisoning. They will give you further instructions.
This is a free and confidential service. All local poison control centers in the United States use this national number. You should call if you have any questions about poisoning or poison prevention. It does NOT need to be an emergency. You can call for any reason, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Take the container with you to the hospital, if possible.
See: Poison control center - emergency number
What to expect at the emergency room
The health care provider will measure and monitor the patient's vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure. Symptoms will be treated as appropriate. The patient may receive:
- Breathing tube
- Bronchoscopy - camera down the throat to see burns in the airways and lungs
- Endoscopy -- camera down the throat to see burns in the esophagus and the stomach
- Fluids through a vein (IV)
- Irrigation (washing of the skin), perhaps every few hours for several days
- Surgical removal of burned skin (skin debridement)
- Tube through the mouth into the stomach to wash out the stomach (gastric lavage
How well a patient does depends on the amount of poison swallowed and how quickly treatment was received. The faster a patient gets medical help, the better the chance for recovery.
Damage can continue to occur for several weeks after the tar remover was swallowed. Death may occur as long as a month later.
Mirkin DB. Benzene and related aromatic hydrocarbons. In: Shannon MW, Borron SW, Burns MJ, eds. Haddad and Winchester's Clinical Management of Poisoning and Drug Overdose. 4th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 94.
Eric Perez, MD, St. Luke's / Roosevelt Hospital Center, NY, NY, and Pegasus Emergency Group (Meadowlands and Hunterdon Medical Centers), NJ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.