Volatile compounds in the blood of fire fatalities

Cheng, Kun Nang (1984) Volatile compounds in the blood of fire fatalities. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

An attempt was made to evaluate the importance of
smoke and toxic gas inhalation in fires by comparing the
volatile constituents in blood taken from fire fatalities
with those of normal healthy and post-mortem controls. At
the initial stage of the project, particular attention was
given to the measurement of carbonyl compounds which
represent a series of toxic and strongly irritant thermal
degradation products from many polymeric materials.
Three analytical methods, namely, i) gas chromatographic
analysis of carbonyls after conversion to their
corresponding 2,4-dinitrophenyl hydrazone derivatives, ii)
direct static headspace gas chromatography, and iii) dynamic
headspace gas chromatography, were compared for their
applicability to the measurement of carbonyls in blood.
Problems associated with binding of carbonyls to blood
proteins were experienced in the first two methods which
precluded their use for this application. The latter method
was found to be most suitable in this respect since the bound
carbonyls were released during the purging process. The
method was also the most sensitive and when used in
conjunction with a mass spectrometer, a detection limit in
the nanogram per millilitre range was obtained.
Volatiles in blood were extracted by purging the
samples (1 ml) with 0.6 litre of helium and collecting the
components on a small Tenax-GC column. The volatiles were
then thermally desorbed and analysed by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry using a 100 m x 0.5 mm i.d.
Carbowax 20M SCOT column.
The sorption technique was found to extract a wide
range of volatile components from blood enabling a
comparison of volatile profiles to be made. Thus initially
organic nitriles as well as the carbonyl compounds were
quantified. Volatile components were identified by
comparison of their retention indices and mass spectra with
those of authentic standards. Where the latter were not
available, tentative identifications were made 9n the basis
of their mass spectral data only. Quantification of
carbonyls and nitriles was achieved by comparing their
response ratios to those from an external standard under
identical conditions.
During the period from August 1981 to May 1982,
thirty-one blood volatile profiles were studied.
These included four normal healthy controls and six
post-mortem controls. In general, more complex profiles
were found in fire fatalities than those of the controls.
Over 140 chemical species have been identified in these!
profiles and these include series of carbonyls, nitriles,
alcohols, esters, aliphatic and aromatic hydrocarbons,
halogenated hydrocarbons, heterocyclic compounds and
sulphur-containing compounds. A detailed examination of
the profiles has indicated that those compounds which might
be of significance fell into two main catagories: those
which were strong sensory and respiratory irritants, and
those which were depressants of the central nervous system.
Quantitative measurements of carbonyls in blood have shown that the mean levels of 2-butanone, butandione,
2-pentanone, cyclopentanone, cyclohexanone and hexanal were
higher in fire fatalities than those in the controls. Of
particular concern were the very high levels of
acetonitrile and the presence of acrolein Ca highly toxic
and strong sensory irritant) in the blood of some of the
fire fatalities. Although the toxicological significance of these
gaseous toxicants in causing fire fatalities has yet to be
established, the results have clearly demonstrated that
most of the fire deaths included in this
exposed to a wide range of toxicants.
these compounds may have played a vital
incapacitation during the fire.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Subjects: R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA1001 Forensic Medicine. Medical jurisprudence. Legal medicine
Colleges/Schools: College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences
Supervisor's Name: Supervisor, not known
Date of Award: 1984
Depositing User: Ms Mary Anne Meyering
Unique ID: glathesis:1984-5366
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 09 Jul 2014 13:04
Last Modified: 09 Jul 2014 13:06
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/5366

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