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Glue sniffing deaths in Singapore--volatile aromatic hydrocarbons in post-mortem blood by headspace gas chromatography.

Over a period from 1983 to 1991, of a total of 19,000 post-mortems, 33 were found to have at least one aromatic hydrocarbon (benzene, toluene or xylenes) in the blood. Of the 33 deceased, 22 had a history of toluene or petrol abuse while most of the remaining 11 were suspected to be glue sniffers through evidence found at the scene. This number, which represented 0.17 per cent of all the unnatural deaths, is considered small for a nation having a glue sniffing epidemic. The low death rate, as compared to 2.1 per cent through drug and chemical poisoning during the same period, is attributed to the timely intervention by the Government who outlawed glue sniffing and the effectiveness of compulsory rehabilitation. The male gender predominates (81.8 per cent) among the 33 deceased with a mean age of 20.1 years (range 15 to 33). The mean age for the female gender is 17.7 years (range 16 to 20). The blood toluene levels were found to be in the range 0.2 to 92 micrograms per ml blood. The causes of death are: 63.6 per cent due to falling or suicide by jumping; 18.2 per cent drowning; 6.1 per cent hanging; 6.1 per cent homicide; and 6.1 per cent acute toluene poisoning. The high proportion of traumatic deaths are discussed. Headspace gas chromatography with a suitable GC column was used for the analysis. Calibration blood standards were prepared in situ or in bulk stabilized by 10 per cent (v/v) methanol to overcome the hydrophobic and volatile nature of the aromatic hydrocarbons.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

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