What are the possible chemical exposures of smoke inhalation injury?

Updated: Oct 15, 2021
  • Author: Keith A Lafferty, MD; Chief Editor: Joe Alcock, MD, MS  more...
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Smoke may also contain aldehydes from combustion of furniture and cotton, and a variety of chemicals released by burning of rubber and plastics, including the following:

Smokes and obscurants long have been used by the military as a means of hiding troops, equipment, and certain areas from view of the opposing forces and from engagement by weapons with electro-optical control systems. Although smokes typically are not used as direct chemical agents, they may produce toxic injury to skin, eyes, and all parts of the respiratory tract. [8] Smokes are also produced inadvertently in industry by explosion, by mechanical generation, or as a by-product of a chemical interaction.

Smokes associated with the military, industry, or both, include the following:

  • Oxides of nitrogen (NOx)

  • Zinc oxide (HC)

  • Red phosphorus (RP)

  • Sulfur trioxide (FS)

  • Titanium tetrachloride (FM)

  • Oil fog (eg, Smoke Generator Fog 2 [SGF2])

  • Pyrolysis of polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE; Teflon)

The chemical property of smoke combined with burn injury induces a complex pathophysiologic process that results in hypoxic insult, early airway edema, and bronchoconstriction. [9]

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