What is the pathophysiology of smoke inhalation caused by titanium tetrachloride?

Updated: Oct 15, 2021
  • Author: Keith A Lafferty, MD; Chief Editor: Joe Alcock, MD, MS  more...
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Titanium tetrachloride, known as FM, is a colorless-to–pale yellow liquid that has fumes with a strong odor. Upon contact with water, it rapidly forms hydrochloric acid and titanium compounds. It is used to make titanium metal, white pigment in paints, and other products. It breaks down rapidly in the environment.

FM readily hydrolyzes in the presence of water or moist air via an exothermic reaction that occurs in 2 stages. First, FM reacts to form a highly dispersed particulate smoke. This smoke reacts with more moisture in the air to form hydrolytic products of FM such as hydrochloric acid, titanium oxychlorides, and titanium dioxide. Generation of the smoke has been used as screens in military operations. The formation of hydrochloric acid makes it irritating and corrosive.

When FM liquid is exposed to the air, it produces white fumes. These white fumes can come into contact with skin, resulting in a mild epithelial irritation that usually subsides within 24 hours. When mixed with water, FM produces both heat and hydrochloric acid, which can work synergistically to produce deep thermal burns.

The same pathophysiologic effects that occur with FS smoke occur with FM smoke, since both generate corrosive and irritating acids.

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