Carbon Monoxide Poisoning With Concomitant Mucosal Injury and Chemical Pneumonitis Using Sulfuric and Formic Acids in a Self-Harm Attempt.

The intentional liberation of carbon monoxide through the dehydration of formic acid has been reported with increasing frequency in the literature as a method of self-harm. Online forums have popularized this method of self-harm due to the ease of access of the required reagents, as well as the ability to perform the reaction under ambient conditions. The basis of this method of suicide is the use of sulfuric acid as a dehydrating agent, leading to the decomposition of formic acid into carbon monoxide gas. In addition to the exposure to carbon monoxide liberated by this reaction, the relatively high vapor pressure of formic acid can inadvertently lead to its inhalation and subsequently cause damage to the aerodigestive tract. We report a 21-year-old male who presented with manifestations of acute carbon monoxide poisoning and concomitant chemical pneumonitis. Increased awareness and understanding of this method of self-harm is critical in ensuring appropriate precautions are taken when caring for these individuals.

as reported in: Lewis N, DeVore B, Gaines L, Arnold JK. Cureus. 2021 Sep:13(9):e17894. doi: 10.7759/cureus.17894.