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Medical Science Monitor Basic Research


Toluene inducing acute respiratory failure in a spray paint sniffer

Diego P. Peralta, Aymara Y. Chang

Am J Case Rep 2012; 13:92-95

DOI: 10.12659/AJCR.882962

Available online:

Published: 2012-05-31


Background:    Toluene, formerly known as toluol, is an aromatic hydrocarbon that is widely used as an industrial feedstock and as a solvent. Like other solvents, toluene is sometimes also used as an inhalant drug for its intoxicating properties. It has potential to cause multiple effects in the body including death.
    Case Report:    I report a case of a 27-year-old male, chronic spray paint sniffer, who presented with severe generalized muscle weakness and developed acute respiratory failure requiring ventilatory support. Toluene toxicity was confirmed with measurement of hippuric acid of 8.0 g/L (normal <5.0 g/L).
    Conclusions:    Acute respiratory failure is a rare complication of chronic toluene exposure that may be lethal if it is not recognized immediately. To our knowledge, this is the second case of acute respiratory failure due to toluene exposure.

Keywords: Toluene, hippuric acid, acute respiratory failure, spray paint sniffer