The Poison Post - Summer 2009 Edition The Poison Post - Torch Fuel Alert

The Poison Post®

National Capital Poison Center eNewsletter Torch Oil Alert 2009

ALERT! Torch Fuels Are Dangerous Poisons

Last month, a toddler drank citronella torch oil while out camping with his family. A few hours later, he died at a local hospital.  Last year, an 84-year-old woman died after a family member poured torch fuel into a glass.  She drank it, thinking it was apple juice.  An 8-year-old girl has permanent lung damage after making the same mistake.
Whatever you call it - torch fuel, tiki oil, bug lamps - fuel oil can be fatal if swallowed. Some people who drank it but didn't die were sick for prolonged periods of time. These products often look like apple juice, which is why it is easy to make a mistake.  The liquid is the same color, the bottles are of similar heights, and the caps look alike.  And, when poured out of their bottles, it's impossible to tell the difference.
Torch fuel, sometimes called torch oil, is poured into many varieties of "tiki torches" or "patio torches" used for outdoor lighting in warm weather.  Many merchants sell them in bamboo or metal.  The "torch" or lantern portion sits on top of a long pole that is usually put into the ground or a bucket of sand.  The torch fuel may contain an insect repellant such as citronella or lemon grass.25th
If swallowed, torch fuel can easily slide down into the lungs instead of going into the stomach.  This causes pneumonia and also prevents the lungs from absorbing oxygen.  Even small amounts in the lungs can be life-threatening or fatal.      

To prevent a torch fuel tragedy, take some straightforward steps:

  • Keep torch oil in its original, labeled, child-resistant bottle.  Do NOT transfer it to a cup or container to fill a torch.  Do NOT use it when children are around.
  • Store torch oil in a place that children cannot see or reach.  Be sure the cap is on tightly.
  • Store torch oil where it cannot be mistaken for something good to drink.
  • Watch children closely.  During a party or gathering, be sure that someone is assigned to keep an eye on each individual child all the time.
  • And remember that these fuels and the torches filled with them are flammable.  Fire-safety precautions are needed, not just poison prevention measures.  

If you suspect that someone has swallowed, handled, or breathed in a poison, call the Poison Center right away.  The 24-hour number is 1-800-222-1222.  The experts that answer your call will tell you exactly what to do.

The National Capital Poison Center depends on generous contributions from individuals, foundations, and corporations. In addition, partial funding is provided through grants and contracts from the Commonwealth of Virginia, the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), the State of Maryland, and the Department of Health of the District of Columbia.

 Copyright 2010.  National Capital Poison Center.  All rights reserved.